by Aurelia and A.C. Henley
DISCLAIMER: This is an original work of fiction. All characters are the property of the authors and are not to be reproduced without permission.
GENERAL DISCLAIMER: No teddy bears were harmed during the writing of this story.
© March 2008
* * *
“Please! Aunt Goldie!” Clancy had wondered who she had wronged in this life to be suffering now as she worried a long strand of blonde hair between her fingers.
“But Clancy dear… what was wrong with Michael?” Minerva Goldberg sat back in her overstuffed chair and watched her adopted niece pace the hard wood floor of her parlor. The old Jewish woman had taken Clancy under her wing and was intent on finding her a husband.
“You know, when my mother asked you to look after me I don’t think it included my love life.” An agitated hand crossed her brow in frustration.
Clancy was fast approaching that magical age of 30 and, according to Mrs. Goldberg, she was as good as dead. This date had been a failure from the start, in a long line of failures, and it looked like her singular status was going to stay that way.
“Oi vey. I have never failed in my duty, Clancy, and you are not going to be my first.” Mrs. Goldberg took her matchmaking duties very seriously. “So, what was wrong with Michael? He had parsley between his teeth? His tie was crooked? He dribbled his soup? What?”
“There was just no magic there, Aunt Goldie.”
“Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Clancy honey. You’re a sweet girl…”
Clancy inwardly moaned. Oh no… ‘you’re a sweet girl’. It was the kiss of death. It meant just about anything, from ‘you’re an ugly bitch’, to ‘there’s a booger hanging out of your nose’, to ‘you need mouthwash… and bad’.
“You have set me up with… how many men?”
“At last count, eight, and you’ve rejected all of them. Too tall, too fat, too thin, too short, too… this and that. They were all too…”
“…much, aunty. I want to live my own life.”
“But, you should have a man…”
“And none of them appeal to me. Is it me or is it them?”
Goldie bit her tongue. How could she say that Clancy was dragging her feet? But she could see that the young woman could read her like a book. Damn her expressive face. “None… at all? Not even in your college years?”
“I was too busy for that kind of thing. I had a plan for business college and boys weren’t in the schedule.”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.” Goldie smiled and flipped open her card file that sat next to her chair. Her fingers danced across the cards until she found what she was looking for.
Why did Clancy have a feeling that nothing was actually something? Surely there were more twenty-nine year old virgins in the world besides herself. What was the big deal anyway?
Goldie read the information on the card with a secret smile. “You have a date Saturday afternoon. Dress casual for lunch at the 24th Street Café.”
Clancy sighed and her shoulders slumped. “It’s just going to be the same, aunty.”
“Nonsense!” Goldie rose to her feet and hung an arm across the younger woman’s shoulders. “This next one will be perfect. Trust me.”
She walked her Clancy to the front door of her small house. “One o’clock lunch… oh, and wear a white carnation.”
Before her niece could argue the point, she shooed the girl out the door with a wave and a smile. She watched out the door’s window until Clancy had pulled away from the curb before rushing back to her chair. She had arrangements to make.
* * *
Clancy arrived at the café five minutes early, requesting a booth near the window in the hope she would get a good look at her lunch date before he arrived. She ordered a hot cup of tea and idly watched the sidewalk traffic go by. Several men entered the establishment but none were wearing a white carnation. As the clock on the wall ticked by, finally clicking over to one-thirty, she began to think she had been stood up. Just like her life. Ticking towards that ever-shortening deadline.
While in mid-sip from her tea cup a tap on the window made her jump. A woman on the street was waving at her and mouthing the word ‘sorry’, pointing to the cell phone pressed to her ear. Clancy looked around to see who the woman was communicating with but found no one paying attention. When she looked back the woman had turned her back to her and seemed to be having an animated conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone.
She sat her now empty tea cup down and waved at the waitress who hurried over to her. “I’m ready for my check.”
“Stood up?” the waitress idly asked as she prepared to write up the bill.
Just as Clancy was about to answer, the other side of the booth was occupied and a melodic voice apologized. “Sorry about that. I had to settle a little work dispute.”
Clancy’s green eyes blinked at the woman who had tapped on the window moments before. “Errr…. I think there’s been a mistake.”
The woman tucked her long black hair behind her ears and looked at Clancy with vibrant blue eyes. “Mrs. Goldman sent me.” She held up the corner of her black shirt where a small white carnation was pinned.
“But… but you’re a woman.”
“Give the girl a cookie.” Those same blue eyes lit up with mischief. “I’m glad somebody noticed.”
“I don’t understand. What’s going on?”
“Well, it seems Goldie is trying to match you up with a woman.”
“Let’s not go through that again, okay?” The brunette was amused at the stunned look on her blind date. “Hello, my name is Carmen Pratka.” An elegant hand extended across the formica in greeting.
Dumbly, Clancy took it in her own sweaty palm, forgetting to shake it. Her mind was still playing catch up with the situation. A woman? What possessed Goldie to do such a thing? Maybe it was a joke. Yeah, that was it.
“Carmen. You can report back to Goldie that I got the joke, okay? I will try harder next time. Now… if you will excuse me…”
“Hey! Hey! Hold on! I just got here.”
“I think Goldie is playing a joke on you.” Clancy just wanted to disappear and forget the lunch date ever happened.
“That’s not what she told me.”
“Told… you?” Clancy sat down again, wincing as the leather cushion whooshed with her weight. “What… did… she… tell… you?”
“Well, I think that would be breaking doctor-patient confidentiality.”
“True, except Goldie is not a doctor and I am sure you are not her patient.”
“She warned me about your skepticism.” Carmen asked the hovering waitress for a menu then turned back to Clancy. “She’s never been wrong about these things you know. Mrs. Goldberg is a legend in this neighborhood.”
Clancy shook her finger in the air. “I am not gay!” She cringed as she heard her own voice echo in the now very quiet café. She bit her bottom lip as she sank down into the booth trying desperately to disappear. “Do I look gay?” she asked in a harsh whisper across the table to the smiling brunette.
“You could pass,” the waitress said with a serious nod as she delivered Carmen’s menu. “I’ll give you a minute to decide.” She winked at the dark headed woman before leaving.
“See? Maybe you just haven’t given it any thought.” Carmen studied the menu as she dismissed Clancy’s denial.
Clancy crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. How could her aunt even consider a woman as an option for her? “I’ve never….”
“That’s what Mrs. Goldberg said.” Carmen closed the menu after making her lunch choice. She looked across the table at her sulking lunch partner. “Maybe, just maaaaybe, Mrs. Goldberg has you pegged. If not, what’s the harm in sharing a little lunch?”
Clancy considered that for a moment. What harm would it do to have lunch with the woman? She certainly was easy on the eyes and her personality radiated off her filling the room.
“Okay. Lunch.” Her finger came back up and shook once again in Carmen’s direction. “But nothing else.”
“We’ll see.” Carmen said and beamed a perfect smile. The waitress returned and she pointed to two items on the menu before giving the woman a sultry smile and a wink. The brunette laughed inside as she watched the scared woman eyeing her nervously from across the table.
“It’s okay, you know. I’m not going to eat you.” Her mind couldn’t help but add ‘yet’ to the conversation. “I’ve already ordered and since you weren’t on the menu I settled for pastrami on rye.”
Why didn’t that calm Clancy’s nerves? Could it have been those piercing eyes boring a hole into her or the feline smile that spoke volumes about what the woman was thinking? The woman looked like she was stalking her and she was the prey.
The silence was maddening. “So, what do you do, errrr…,” what was the woman’s name? “…Carmen.”
“Pretty much.” Carmen was getting perverse pleasure out of seeing the woman squirm. But while the woman asked the questions there was still a chance she was interested.
“That’s like saying ‘I work for a living’.”
“It’s a job, what about you?”
“I thought you said Goldie told you everything?”
“Everything that was important. Not the boring stuff.”
“My job is boring?”
“Is it?” Carmen couldn’t help but laugh at the frown tattooed on the blonde’s face. It was just too easy.
“I have a very important job.” But Carmen looked disinterested. “I do! I am a… a… government contractor.” Clancy smiled, pleased with her exaggerated job description.
“Like a spy or something?”
Clancy chewed the inside of her cheek. “Maybe.”
“I think you’re making it up.” Carmen eased back and allowed her sandwich to be delivered.
Clancy bit her bottom lip and watched her ‘date’ flirt with the comely waitress. She hardly noticed when a plate was set before her until the scent of hot sourdough bread and roasted vegetables tickled her nose. She examined the sandwich closely, pulling the bread apart and inspecting the interior.
“Don’t worry, there’s no meat,” Carmen said before tearing into her own sandwich with gusto.
“Goldie told you I was a vegetarian?”
“Like I said, the important stuff.” Carmen took another bite of meat and rye.
“So what else did she tell you? My bra size?”
“34B.” Carmen’s eyes were plastered to the food she was feeding into her mouth. “Hey, this is pretty good,” she mumbled around the masticated food.
“Oh, Lord…” Was there no privacy? If Goldie told this woman all her secrets, what had the men she had dated known?
“What?” Carmen’s mouth stopped chewing. “The food’s no good? You can always order something else…” She was about to signal to the hovering waitress when the blonde cut across her thoughts.
“No! No… it’s fine.” Clancy picked up the sandwich and took a healthy bite. At least it would stop her putting her size seven foot into her mouth. This had to be the worst date of her life, if it was a date. No, stop that! It’s not a date. Now her mind was arguing with itself. She was losing it. Why was this woman upsetting her?
“So, Spygirl, are you planning my demise? Gonna torture me into submission?” White, even teeth grinned at her impishly. “Now that could be interesting.”
“Stop that!” Clancy hissed across the table. “Why do you keep teasing me?”
“Cause you’ve got to loosen up, Clancy, if this relationship…”
“Hey! Hey! Hang on! Relationship? What relationship? We are having lunch and already it’s a relationship? When did that happen?”
“In the five minutes you were contemplating whether to eat or run.”
“Maybe I should have run.”
“Maybe you should have.”
“Are you a stalker and I don’t know it yet?”
“Stalking is such a harsh word. I am known for my persistence though. Does that count?” Carmen watched Clancy play with a strand of her long blonde hair. She wondered if the woman realized what a looker she was. Probably. Someone that stunning had to be aware of her looks.
Lunch settled into an uneasy draw as each woman ate and pondered the other.
Carmen could hardly wait to give Mrs. Goldberg a call to fill her in. She got a definite ping off the woman across from her, now it was just a matter of making Clancy realize she had been playing on the wrong team, or hoped to be playing on the right team. A twenty-nine year old virgin, go figure!
Clancy was busy trying to figure a graceful way out of the restaurant. She contemplated setting a fire in the women’s bathroom and making her escape in the mayhem that followed. Or I could just set her on fire and run. Clancy was saved from committing a capitol crime when Carmen’s cell phone rang.
There was another heated exchange between the brunette and who ever was on the other end of the line before the phone was flipped closed. “I’m sorry to eat and run…,” Carmen wagged the phone in the air, “…but I have to go kick some drama queen’s ass.”
And just like that lunch ended.
Clancy sat for a long moment alone in the booth. It had been the most bizarre hour she had ever spent with another human being in her life, and that was quite the statement considering her overbearing parents and her aunt Goldie.
“Anything else, sweetie?” the waitress asked as she picked up the now empty plates.
“Just the check, thank you.”
“Your girlfriend took care of it.”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Clancy huffed, scooting out of the booth.
The waitress smiled sweetly. “Can I have her number then?”
Clancy’s jaw dropped open. “No!”
“Sheesh. So selfish. If you’re not going to grab her up at least give the rest of us a chance.”
* * *
Clancy should have gone right home but instead she detoured to Aunt Goldie’s house while her righteous indignation was still in high gear. How dare she! A-a-woman! The old woman to try to hitch her with a woman? She was pretty sure that she had stipulated a man when the ludicrous idea of a matchmaker was brought up. Clancy sifted back through her memories to that fateful day. Hmmmm…. Yeeesssss, a man. She definitely said a man. That left senility.
The front door rattled as she banged energetically on the glass.
“Yeessss???? Who is it?”
“One angry woman!”
“Sorry, I already gave.”
“Goldie, open this door!” Clancy could feel the old woman’s presence behind the cloth-covered glass. “Damn it woman. Open up! Now!”
“Watch your mouth young lady.” An irate Jewish grandmother stood before her, angrily waving a crooked finger at her. “I will not tolerate such language.”
“But…” Clancy’s offensive had suddenly gone on the defensive. “That lunch date…”
“Ooooo…” The frown was replaced with a smile. “Come in, come in. Tell me all.”
“All? There’s nothing to tell. How could you?”
“How could I… what?”
“Don’t play innocent with me, old woman. That was a nasty trick to play on me.”
“Trick? Noooooo, that was no trick.”
Clancy searched those muddy brown eyes for the truth. “It was for real? Why? What on earth possessed you to arrange a date with a… a…”
“Woman? It’s not a dirty word, Clancy dear.”
“It may as well be. You know I said men when we started on this journey of yours to Wonderland.”
“Well, Alice, since you have shown absolutely no interest in any of the men I have slavishly organized to take you out, I had to try something… or someone… else.”
“But… why her?”
“Carmen is a lovely girl, Clancy. She is easy-going, funny, vivacious and, best of all, unattached.”
Clancy mentally reviewed the list. “Okay, that’s all true. But let’s not forget the female part. I am not gay!”
“Eh.” Goldie shrugged, “Is it such a bad thing?”
The blonde growled and left, leaving an amused Minerva Goldberg to rush to the phone.
* * *
Clancy held her breath all Sunday for a phone call from Goldie, but there was nothing. She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or worried. By Monday evening, she was satisfied that the whole incident with Carmen Pratka was behind her.
* * *
On her way home from work she stopped in at her local supermarket to stock up on supplies. Her refrigerator had been growling lately because of its empty stomach, and she was never one to ignore her fridge’s rumblings.
The gentle sound of crappy muzak sat in the air like a bad smell as she wandered up and down the aisles slowly filling up her shopping basket.
“Shoppers, we have a special in the produce section. For the next ten minutes…” Clancy didn’t wait to hear the rest of the message. Any special in the produce section was right up her alley.
Once she brought Goldie with her, but never again. The old woman was convinced the muzak was the Devil’s work, with subliminal messages buried in its tinny tunes to make her buy more. Maybe it did. Here she was rushing to the produce section because the loud speaker told her to.
She was feeling up a few tomatoes when she was startled by a tap on her shoulder. Her hand flexed and the small Roma in her hand collapsed under her fist. Tomato pulp oozed out around her fingers, dripping sluggishly onto the stand below.
“Ewww. You’re gonna have a hard time ditching that.” Carmen grinned at the distressed woman. She was going to phone Goldie and thank her for the fun.
“No, no, no, no,” Clancy whined. “This is not happening.”
“Yup, it is.” Carmen scooted up beside the blonde. “Imagine my surprise to see your luscious backside standing at the tomato display. I said to myself, ‘Self! That there is Clancy Fitzgerald, now is your opportunity to ask her to dinner.’”
“No.” Clancy looked around hastily for someplace to stash the squished tomato.
Carmen grabbed a plastic bag from a nearby dispenser and opened it, allowing the woman to dump the poor Roma into the bag. She shook her hand vigorously to rid herself of the clinging seeds, but they refused to budge. “Damn it to hell…,” she grumbled. In frustration, she grabbed the bag and wiped her fingers with it. “Thanks,” she said reluctantly, handing over the mashed bag and its contents.
“Seven o’clock, I’ll pick you up.” Carmen tied off the bag and buried it under a pile of cucumbers.
“In your dreams.” Clancy placed three undamaged tomatoes into her hand basket before moving on.
“That’s true. My dreams have been very active recently.” Carmen followed her as she moved onto the lettuces. “So what do we have here?” The brunette inspected the contents of Clancy’s basket. “Hmmm… lentils, beans, nuts, tomatoes. Remind me to bring some meat when I come to your place.”
“My place? No way! No dinner and no my place!” God, the woman was pushy!
“Not even dinner at Cesar’s?”
The restaurant was one of the trendier places in town and one Carmen would have liked to have eaten at. She had never found anyone special enough to warrant Cesar’s… at least, not yet.
“There is no way you could have a reservation for tomorrow night. There is a two month waiting list to get into that place.” Clancy idly examined a lettuce head. “Soooo, that’s it! I’m a replacement date. Someone turned you down, huh?”
“They certainly did not!” It was like a slap to Carmen’s ego. “I’ll have you know that I have no problem in getting a date…”
“Unlike me, you mean.” The lettuce was forgotten for the moment.
“No! Not at all. Don’t go putting words in my mouth.”
“Look, just drop it, okay? I’m not going to be a pity date.”
“Will you stop that! You are not a pity date. I want to go out with you!” Carmen’s voice had slowly risen until it had attracted a small audience.
“Yeah, go out with her.” “What’s a date?” “Yeah, shut the woman up, for pity’s sake!” Everyone had advice to give.
“No! And that’s final!”
“Alright then, at least a drink. C’mon, just one drink then I’ll take you home.”
“Yeah, right. Take me home.”
“I’ll drop you at the door and go. One drink at Francesca’s, that’s all.” Carmen’s eyes pleaded. “To say sorry for yesterday. Goldie was just trying to help.”
“Awwww, hell…” Clancy’s gut said to say ‘no’ but her mouth said ‘yes’. “It’s not one of those loud places with that disco stuff, is it?”
“Disco? What decade are you living in? House music? No. The ambiance is very special. One that I am sure you will find… illuminating.”
“I don’t know…”
“Then, I’ll come over for a drink at your place.” If Carmen thought she knew Clancy that thought would push her the other way.
“No! No. Francesca’s is fine.”
“Seven o’clock then. I’ll pick you up!” Carmen swiveled on her foot to leave. “Oh, and dress sexy.”
“Yeah, I want to at least get something out of the night.” She winked at the open-mouthed blonde before wandering off to finish her own shopping.
What had just happened? Clancy had no idea. She tried to replay the whole scene and came to the conclusion that she had been hoodwinked again. She blindly grabbed a head of romaine and headed for the check out.
* * *
The next evening Clancy stood in front of her dressing mirror frowning. There was a pile of rejected clothes on the bed behind her and the outfit she was currently wearing was not right either. A quick glance at the clock on the night stand told her she only had fifteen minutes to go before Carmen would be there to pick her up. I never had this much trouble picking out an outfit to wear on any of my other dates. She discarded the floral dress she had on for a simple black dress that came to her mid-thigh. She checked in the mirror to see if her rear looked okay. When in doubt, go with black.
Clancy took a moment to check out the effect and was starting to have second thoughts. The black number fitted her like a glove, showing off every curve, bump and imperfection that she owned. Did she want to send this message to the woman? What was she thinking? She was about to strip it off when she stopped. What was the point? The black dress was the last piece in her arsenal. It was this or going back through the rejected pile of clothes on the bed.
The phone rang twice before she picked up the cordless from the night stand. She continued her journey to the bathroom to put on make-up, “Hello.” She grabbed her base and began to apply it.
“Mom!” The pit of Clancy’s stomach fell. It was D-Day and her parents were storming the beaches of Normandy.
“Minerva said you have a date tonight.”
“It’s just drinks.” She shifted the phone to her other ear so she could do the other side of her face.
“With a woman.”
“Minerva says she’s nice. Gay is okay, honey.”
Clancy removed the phone from her ear and stared at the receiver. She did a quick review of her childhood and couldn’t say there was any defining moment in her life when her parents said “Go for it with a woman, dear. We’re right behind you.” She would have definitely remembered that! Now her mother was sounding like a bumper sticker.
She placed the phone back to her ear. “I am not gay,” she professed evenly into the phone.
“Minerva says it’s not all bad news, honey. A lot of Lesbian couples have full lives with children. I can hardly believe you’re actually going on a second date! I want you to bring her by this weekend.”
Clancy growled as she angrily applied her blush. “We are not dating, Mom.” She picked up her lipstick.
“You went to lunch now you’re off for drinks, I’d say that’s dating. Let me check with your father.”
The piercing yell of her mother calling her father burst from the receiver and caused her to cringe and pull the soft pink lipstick across her right cheek. “Sonofabitch!”
“Beg your pardon?” A familiar bass voice scolded her.
“Sorry, Dad.” She quickly cleaned her cheek and reconstructed her makeup.
“Soooo… hot date tonight I hear. Leggy brunette, so your mother says. Second date even.”
“It’s not a date. I keep trying to tell you that. It’s just one drink, Dad. An apology drink then its back home. I will not be seeing her again.”
“If you say so, honey.”
The door bell rang and Clancy found herself relieved to have an excuse to end the torturous call. “I gotta go, Dad. She’s here to pick me up.”
“Well good luck, honey. I can’t wait to meet her this weekend.”
Clancy sighed, “Thanks Dad.”
She felt like an alien visiting Earth for the first time. It was as if the whole world was gay-mad and she was the outsider.
* * *
“Veerrrryyy nice,” Carmen said evenly, her insides churning with anticipation. Her mind was quickly voicing what she really wanted to say. “Holy crapola!” Her eyes narrowed as she checked out the dress. If it was any tighter she could have been naked. Is she wearing a bra? I can’t tell… Carmen knew her eyes lingered a little too long when a discreet clearing of a throat drew her back to Clancy’s face. “Errrr… sorry.”
“Let’s get going.” But Clancy’s ego puffed up a little at the ogling. It was always nice to be appreciated, even if it was a woman.
“Are you in such a hurry?”
“The sooner we have this drink, the sooner I’m back home asleep.” Despite the harsh words there was a tinge of whimsy about them.
“It’s your dime…” Carmen didn’t take offence at the dismissal. She was not one to give up so easily.
As she escorted her date to her car her eyes slid over the slinky dress to the ass so perfectly outlined in the black material. Oh God! Is she wearing any panties? She’s got to be…but I can’t see any. I’m going to have a heart attack. Yeah, she’s wearing them… somewhere, somehow …. It was going to be a long one-drink night…
* * *
This is not a date! This is not a date! This is not a date! Clancy repeated the mantra in her head as Carmen escorted her into Francesca’s. Carmen had been charming to a fault during the car ride, keeping the small talk comfortable and not too mundane. The woman even asked her what music she preferred on the radio for the trip. Now she was gently but confidently holding her hand as she guided Clancy to a table in the dimly lit club. It certainly felt like she was on date even though her stubborn little voice was contradicting that thought.
The table was one in a group of three that bordered a small dance floor that sat in front of a small stage. There were similar groupings of tables around the club, all occupied by couples and foursomes… of women. A jazz quartet played ‘My Blue Heaven’ on the stage and there were several women on the dance floor enjoying the bouncy beat. A waitress in tuxedo pants, crisp white shirt, and bowtie placed two drink coasters on the table.
“What may I get you ladies?”
“I’ll have Maker’s neat.” Carmen ordered then looked expectantly at Clancy, who was processing the fact that she was in a Lesbian club, with a Lesbian, on a very obvious date. “She’ll have a Manhattan.” Carmen smiled at the waitress then nudged Clancy as the woman left to fill their orders. “Are you okay?”
“I’m on a date with a woman,” Clancy hissed, “In a Lesbian bar!”
Carmen smiled charmingly, “Yes you are.”
“This is crazy!”
Carmen looked around and shrugged, “It seems pretty cozy to me. I love this retro stuff.” Her eyes skirted the Art Deco walls and furnishings.
Clancy growled at her companion. “The atmosphere is great, it’s the implication. I am not on a date with you, this is only drinks.”
“I don’t see the problem. You’ll probably never see any of these people again. Relax and enjoy a nice evening out. I promise not to tell anyone you’re straight. I’d hate to get kicked out of here.”
“They would kick me out?” Clancy glanced around the well appointed club. It actually was a very nice place. It was clean and smelled better than any bar she had been in recently, which was something. The last seven dates had ended up in some bar somewhere fighting off the advances of some man who thought buying a woman dinner meant free sex.
“Naaa, I was joking.” Carmen grinned.
Clancy’s shoulders dropped. “Do you have to tease me all the time?”
“No.” Carmen smiled wide this time as she leaned in a little across the small table. “But you’re such an easy target I can’t help myself.”
Clancy rolled her eyes.
The waitress brought their drinks and they settled into silence. Clancy was covertly checking out the other couples in the bar as she swayed slightly to the music being played by a small band who seemed to be proficient in 30’s and 40’s era music. It reminded her of her grandparent’s house in the summer and the small phonograph that played constantly. She smiled as the tune switched to an old Andrew Sisters standard.
Carmen sipped on her whiskey as she watched her date. Clancy was truly a beautiful woman and wondered why no one had been able to break through that stubborn exterior.
Clancy caught sight of two women on the dance floor who were swaying close to one another, taking turns whispering in each other’s ear as they danced. After a few exchanges they shared a soft lingering kiss that made her feel warm to her toes.
Carmen didn’t miss the blush that rose on Clancy’s face and turned to see what might have caused such a reaction. Well, what do you know...? The heat on the floor was steadily rising as was hypnotic movement of wayward hands. As much as she wanted to watch what was going to happen next, Carmen’s eyes returned to her own date.
The blonde didn’t know where to look. The show on the floor had drawn the attention of a number of women, all slowly falling under the spell of the couple.
“Hey there, gorgeous. Can I buy you a drink?”
Hovering over her was a tall, dark-haired beauty, looking every inch a thoroughbred racehorse. A long painted fire engine red fingernail touched Clancy’s chin, tipping it up further to meet the blazing hazel eyes studying her. Those eyes drifted over to the blonde’s drinking partner. “You don’t mind, do you?”
Carmen waited to see what Clancy would do. She could see the look of dread on her face and wondered whether or not to let the scene play out. “Sure. Why not?” Anxious eyes touched her own, begging for a reprieve.
As the tall businesswoman turned away to order the drinks Clancy leaned over the table and whispered, “Are you crazy? What did you do that for?”
“Hey. I’m not your date, remember?”
“I’ve got my one drink, thank you very much.” Carmen would let it go only so far before stepping in. After all, she only wanted to shake up the woman not scare her to death.
“While we’re waiting for our drinks how about a dance?”
“A… dance?” Clancy’s voice had reached a mousey shrill. Anxiety had turned into terror and she pleaded silently to Carmen to just say ‘no’. Hell… she could do that. “No thanks.”
“Now don’t be shy, sweetheart. Just one little dance to work up an appetite.” Long elegant fingers had wrapped around her wrist and were steadily pulling her out of the chair. Clancy’s eyes opened wide like saucers. What had she gotten herself into? Out of the corner of her eye she saw the smug look on Carmen.
“Sure.” Clancy said then watched the smug look dropped from Carmen’s face like a stone. “Let’s go.”
Before she could change her mind, the businesswoman dragged her across the carpet to the dance floor, pulling her close. The scent of Shalimar assaulted her senses, nearly overwhelming her. The aroma was like the woman… overpowering. The slow music was her nemesis as she was forced to dance wrapped in the woman’s arms.
“Hi, my name’s Naomi, and yours…?”
“Clancy. Nice to meet you.” She wasn’t really but her social instincts answered for her. This was not what she had planned for the night, not that she had gone out with a plan at all. For the moment she was stuck uncomfortably in a woman’s arms dancing cheek to cheek.
* * *
Carmen was kicking herself. She felt that little demon on her shoulder whispering into her ear. It could all so easily come undone if she wasn’t careful, and it was quickly heading to that point. She didn’t want Clancy to be hurt but seeing this barracuda pawing her was just too much to bear. Action was needed. Subtle action.
She scribbled a note on a napkin and motioned for the waitress, who read the note and glanced at the couple Carmen indicated on the dance floor. For good measure she slipped the waitress a twenty dollar bill then stood, grabbing Clancy’s purse and heading for the bar. Over her shoulder she watched the waitress tap Clancy on the shoulder and give her the message.
Clancy cocked her head and pursed her lips as the waitress explained she had a call waiting on the phone at the bar, holding up the napkin and pointing to the message written there. Clancy almost told the woman it possibly couldn’t be for her, then remembered her situation and nodded, offering her dance partner an apologetic smile. She took a deep breath before explaining to the woman who looked rather put out at the interruption. “I really should take the call. It might be one of my kids.”
“Kids?” The woman released her immediately and took a step back. “How many do you have?”
Clancy’s mind took notice of the terrified look on the woman’s face. “Five.”
“Five!” The woman looked ready to faint. “Its okay, go ahead.”
“Thanks, you’re a real sweetie.” Clancy patted the woman’s arm. “I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time.”
Clancy weaved her way to the bar inwardly smiling at all the appreciative glances she was receiving. These are women, stupid! Remember that! The cold, analytical part of her brain was sending her ‘Danger Will Robinson!’ messages but her soft, squishy, romantic side was lapping it up. She knew it should bother her but somehow her ego just wanted a little pampering, even if it was just this once.
She reached the bar where the bartender smiled warmly at her and handed her a small square of paper along with her purse. The note simply read, ‘Meet me out front.’ Clancy glanced at the table that she and Carmen had been sharing and found it empty. A quick scan of the bar and didn’t show any sign of the brunette either, but her dance partner had already found another companion. I wonder if that line works as good on men as a deterrent. Clancy picked up her purse and thanked the bartender, who gave her a wink and wave as she headed out the door. As the cool evening air hit her she was a bit disappointed to be leaving so soon. Perhaps she could come back and enjoy the band, and maybe Carmen had some more tips to avoid the unwanted advances.
Carmen’s small silver car pulled up to the curb and the horn beeped twice at her. Clancy shook her head as she got into the vehicle. “I would thank you for saving me but it was your fault I was in the mess to begin with,” she admonished the driver who at least had the good manners to look sorry.
“I was an ass,” Carmen admitted, then added, “I apologize.”
“You’ll have to make it up to me.” What the hell am I saying!
Carmen’s mouth dropped open.
Clancy huffed and settled into the seat as she fastened her seat belt. “I know, I know. I can’t believe I said it either!”
“A movie? Or… or… Dinner!” Carmen bounced up and down in her seat.
“How did you know the kid thing would scare her off?” Clancy asked as she mulled over her options for a re-date with Carmen.
The brunette waved her hand, “Ahh, everyone knows Naomi hates kids. Works like shark repellant with her. How about a picnic?”
Carmen pulled the car into traffic. “You know, food, outdoors…”
“Bugs, and dirt…”
“Okaaaay… Then how about I surprise you?”
“Oh no. This was surprise enough.” Clancy couldn’t help but smile as Carmen winced apologetically.
“Alright, since drinks didn’t work out, how about coffee tomorrow morning, you pick the place.”
“The cart on the corner of Fifth and Sherman,” Clancy said, thinking what could possibly go wrong at a public coffee cart in the middle of a busy sidewalk.
“Deal.” Carmen extended her hand toward the blonde and smiled as it was taken in a firm shake sealing their meeting in the morning. All was not lost. At least she was still in the running and no talk of a restraining order had been discussed.
* * *
Clancy collapsed on her bed amidst the pile of discarded clothes from earlier in the night. Her eyes slid shut and she replayed the vision of the two women on the dance floor and their rather steamy exchange. Her body reacted alarmingly to the rampant erotic thoughts running amok through her vivid imagination. When her imagination made some subtle substitutions in the scenario, she was madly scrambling to find some moral high ground. “Nuh uh. I am not gay. I can’t possibly be gay.” She just wished that the ceiling could talk and agree with her. She could use some help convincing herself that she was straight. “I think I would know if I were gay.”
She sought help from her past. Guys were always hanging around… hmmm. As she recalled she was constantly telling them to ‘go hump a camel’ or something. No, that didn’t help. Come on, Clancy. There’s got to be someone out there. What about Justin? He was nice enough, if she remembered rightly, right up to the point where he decided he was gay. Then there was George. Damn, he was gay too. This is not good, Clancy girl.
Clancy could feel her arguments slipping through her fingers like sand. There had to be someone, surely. What about what’s-his-name? He was nice, up to the point when their friendly association became a battle of the rival companies. Damn! This was not looking good.
She rolled over and looked at the clock on the bedside stand. It wasn’t too late to make a few calls. Clancy fumbled with her maroon phone book. She dialed the number her finger rested on and waited in quiet anticipation while it rang through.
“Hello?” the deep male voice answered.
“How are you, George? How’s David?”
“We’re both humming along nicely, sweetie. What can I do for you?”
“I have a question for you George. Do you think I’m gay?” The guffaw of laughter nearly deafened her as it echoed over the receiver. “George?” The laughter continued. “GEORGE!” There was a deep intake of air on the other end of the receiver.
“Oh God, Clancy. Are you trying to kill me? Of course you’re gay. Are you just finding out?”
“Let me talk to David.” Clancy said abruptly. She could hear bits of muffled conversation before George’s long time partner’s voice came over the phone.
“Clancy honey, I don’t know what to say, but you’re definitely a Lesbian.”
“Damn it!” Clancy stood up and stomped the length of the room. “Why didn’t someone say something to me before!”
“Ummm… usually there’s no need to say anything, in my experience anyway. You fit every detail on the profile, honey.”
“LIKE WHAT EXACTLY!”
“No relationship with a man longer than three weeks unless he was gay. Only ever had female roommates. Drive a pick-up, and wear comfortable shoes to work.”
Clancy reviewed the ridiculous list. “What does me wearing comfortable shoes to work have to do with anything?”
“Take a look at the footwear of your employees, honey.”
Clancy sat heavily on the bed. “Damn it. I have to go.” She hung up the phone on her friend with the shoe fetish.
She rolled back over and once again looked at the ceiling. “Well, it’s you and me, kid…” she muttered. It was going to be a long night of self-examination.
* * *
Clancy stood on the corner of Fifth and Sherman enviously eyeing the patron standing next to her with a hot cup of coffee in his hand. She stomped her feet nervously, looking up and down the street. “Where the hell is she…?” she muttered.
“Miss me?” The low voice flowed over and burrowed into her senses.
“Don’t scare me like that!” Clancy shook her head as if trying to dislodge the warm feeling coursing through her. “No, I didn’t. I was just desperate for a cup of coffee, and you owe me.”
“You could have started without me.”
“If I did that, what would have been the point of me being here at all?”
“This is our third non-date, remember?”
“You’re keeping count now?”
“Sure, I want to know how many of these non-dates it’s gonna take before you actually call it a date.”
Clancy finally brought her eyes to Carmen’s face. She had tried not to look because her mind tended to wander when she did so. The woman’s dark tendrils were massed on top of her head in a rather officious-looking bun. Under her overcoat she wore a severe business suit. Clancy looked up and down, from the tips of her blue stilettos to the top of her well-coiffed head.
“Sorry, business meeting this morning.” Carmen glanced down at her shoes. "I hate these things."
“Don’t let me keep you from business.” Clancy felt decidedly underdressed, standing there in her comfortable flat shoes and pants. Damn, David was right. She hadn’t given a second thought to slipping on those shoes. Now, if she could remember to check out her co-workers without being called a freak she could settle the matter once and for all.
“I’d rather be here… with you.”
Clancy felt her skin crawl… but in a nice way. Tingles skidded across her skin giving her a nice warm fuzzy feeling.
“What is this? Twenty questions? Why me… especially since I have given you all this grief?”
Carmen turned away and ordered two coffees. She handed over one to Clancy and popped the lid on the other one, adding a sugar to the mixture. As she stirred the coffee with a stick she considered the question. “Why? Hmmm. I can’t say yet.”
“Can’t say, or won’t say?” Clancy hated these word games. She popped the lid and dumped four packs of sugar and three tups of cream into her small coffee.
“Can’t… yet. Believe me, when I know, you’ll know.” Carmen did, in fact, have a very good idea but airing it to the skittish woman would make her run for the hills.
Clancy sipped at her coffee, her mind brewing up possible reasons Carmen wanted to pursue a relationship with her when she had said on numerous occasions that she wasn't interested. She ultimately decided it was Carmen's problem and that she would eventually get over it.
"Subject change," she announced. "What is it that you actually do in the clothes distribution business?"
"Like a pimp?"
A fine dark eyebrow rose at her. "Similar, but no." Carmen took a big swig of her sweet smooth brew. She actually hated coffee but any opportunity to spend time with Clancy was worth the sheer horror of drinking it. "How about you, Jane Bond? What exactly do you do for the government?"
Clancy bit her bottom lip and looked across the busy street at her office building. She tilted her head up and glimpsed at the fourteenth flour before turning back to Carmen. "I do some contract work for them."
"Like a hit man?"
Clancy smiled before answering. "Similar, but no."
Carmen chuckled. "I like you. You're a smart ass, and I like a smart ass."
"Mrs. Goldberg called me last night. She said your parents were all on board for your coming out. I think that's awesome." Carmen enjoyed the blush that rose up Clancy's neck to cover her face.
"Mrs. Goldberg is a dead woman…" Clancy mumbled as she gulped down the rest of her coffee. She crumpled the cup and tossed it into the small trash can beside the coffee cart.
“I know someone who can help you with that.” The coffee vendor slipped a card into Clancy’s hand. “Tell ‘em Vito sent ya.”
Clancy stared at the card for several seconds before rolling her eyes and tossing it away also. "I've got to go." She took off across the street toward her building.
Carmen blinked and went after Clancy. She dodged a few cars along the way, amazed that Clancy hadn't been hit the way she blindly crossed the street. "Hey wait up! When can I see you again?" She caught up to Clancy just as she stepped onto the sidewalk.
Clancy spun around and stopped, causing Carmen to come to an ungraceful stop in front of her. She held up her right hand in a fist then extended her index finger. "You and I are not dating. I am not gay."
A woman walking by snickered and shook her head, as she made sonar pinging noises. Clancy growled and Carmen smiled.
"It seems that you're the only one who thinks you're not gay. I think you should give it a chance. The straight gig is obviously not working out for you." Carmen looked serious as she delivered this advice.
Clancy huffed and turned away. It was all so tiring.
“Look…” Carmen grabbed Clancy’s wrist before she escaped into the crowd. “I think we’d make a great couple and I’d like to keep seeing you…”
“No, wait. Hear me out. But… you are having a problem accepting who you are.” Carmen found her wallet in her handbag and pulled out a card, handing it over to the fuming woman. She knew she had stirred the pot by saying she had a problem, but it was time to back away and let Clancy figure it out for herself. It just may kill her but the blonde had to come to her willingly. “Here, give me a call when you’re ready.”
“When? That’s awfully presumptuous of you.”
There were many things on the tip of Carmen’s tongue but she chose not to voice any of them, instead opting for a shrug of her shoulders. “I can only go so far in this relationship. The rest is up to you.”
“Relationship?” Clancy stepped into Carmen’s personal space, her finger stabbing the woman in the chest. “All I’ve heard from you is date and relationship. I... will… not… say… this… again. I am not… I REPEAT NOT… gay.”
“If you say so.” The aggressive nature of the denial didn’t faze the brunette. Fight it all you want, honey.
“I DO SAY SO!”
The crowd had stopped to watch the blonde throwing a hissy-fit on the sidewalk in morning peak hour.
“You tell her, hon.” “What’s she getting so out of joint over?” “She’s tellin’ this other broad that she’s not gay.” “Hey, wanna go out with me instead?” The bystanders threw in.
“See? Everyone has an opinion about this.” Blue eyes bore into Clancy as she fiddled with her braided hair. “Now you have to make your own decision.”
Carmen walked away, crossing with the lights as soon as she was able. She looked at the half-full coffee cup, throwing it into the garbage bin next to her. “And I didn’t even get to finish my coffee…”
Clancy was frozen in place on the sidewalk for several minutes. Her hands were clutched in tight fists at her side, her knuckles turning white with anger and frustration. How dare she give me an ultimatum! She opened her fist to reveal the now crumpled business card Carmen had handed her. Call her? When I'm ready? She crumpled the card viciously back up in her hand. “Why can’t they just leave me alone!” She all but howled at the moon, except that it was daylight and she was not a werewolf.
Clancy walked across the road with great purpose towards her workplace, leaving in her wake an amused group of onlookers.
“She’s gay…,” an elderly woman muttered, and was met with murmurs of approval from the rest.
* * *
Carmen sat in the meeting immobile. What had she done? “Shit…,” she murmured, drawing a frown from the man sitting next to her. “Sorry…”
She was sorry alright. She had placed her future in the hands of a woman whose vocabulary didn’t seem to have the words ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’ in it. Now if her parents had complained that she would have expected, but not from Clancy herself.
“Miss Pratka, do we have your attention?” Her boss warily eyed her.
“Yes, sir. Just thinking.”
“Well, think on your own time. I want to make sure each and every one of you present know exactly what the company’s plans are for the next six months. Do I make myself clear?” Two graying bushy eyebrows met in the middle of his wrinkled forehead.
“Sir!” The mumbled reply flew around the table like a Mexican Wave, finally ending with Carmen.
* * *
Three weeks passed. Three quiet, non-descript weeks… and three of the most boring weeks of Clancy's life. Her parents hadn't called, Goldie had backed off into total silence, and there hadn't been a peep from Carmen.
Clancy sat in the park just around the corner from her apartment. Fall was in full swing and multi colored leaves blew around her feet as they dangled over the edge of a stone wall. She felt very much alone.
Well, you told them to leave you alone, her little voice supplied and Clancy sighed. Her life seemed so empty. She could hardly remember a time when she was so dissatisfied with her life. She looked up and watched a couple walk by hand in hand. That's what you're missing, someone to share your life with. Someone to come home to. “Dammit! What do I have to do to have a life?” she said aloud, allowing her words to blow away with the autumn leaves. But you had a chance at a life, and you rejected it. Now her mind was arguing with itself. No, I didn’t. None of the guys even got to first base.
Exactly, one date and you blew them off. But you had three dates with Carmen, her inner voice interjected. She didn’t know why she was fighting herself on this. Clancy growled, “But I’m not gay!” Isn’t that excuse getting a little old? But you did like Carmen a little bit, didn’t you?
“Well, yeah, but that doesn’t make me gay.” Aren’t you just a tiny bit lonely without her? Now even her inner voice was badgering her. “Geez, you are as bad as my mother…”
"Hey there Clancy girl! Talking to yourself again?"
Clancy looked up and managed a sad smile for her friend George. "Hey."
George frowned at Clancy's sad demeanor. It wasn't like her to be so depressing. "Wanna talk about it?"
Clancy shook her head. "No."
George had been out for his daily jog when he spotted Clancy sitting on the wall brooding. "Is it anything to do with being gay? I have expertise in that field ya' know."
Clancy sighed, "I'm not gay." But it was a weak denial.
Ahh…. George understood the problem immediately. "Come walk with me."
Clancy slid from the wall and joined George in a slow stroll down the sidewalk. "Tell me all about her," George instructed as he laid his arm across Clancy's shoulders.
"Not much to tell. I've only seen her a few times. Her name is Carmen, she's tall, five-nine if I had to guess, long legs that go on forever, long dark brunette hair that she wears down most of the time, and gorgeous blue eyes. She drives a nice car and works in the clothing industry. She drinks her coffee sweet and smooth. Oh! And she eats meat." Clancy ended with a little shiver at the thought of the last item.
George blinked a few times. "Okay, tell me about the last man you went out with."
Clancy's head tilted to the side in thought. "He had a mustache."
"What does that mean?"
George shrugged. "I'm just thinking you know an awful lot about this woman and yet you don't know anything about the last guy you ate dinner with."
Clancy stopped dead, pulling George to an abrupt halt. She looked puzzled. "I wonder why that is?"
"Maybe you found her more interesting than the man?" George pushed, trying to get Clancy to admit she might have found Carmen attractive.
"Like I had a choice. She's really persistent, did I mention that?" Clancy looked away from her friend as a female jogger ran by them.
George followed where Clancy's eyes had strayed to and rolled his eyes. "Nice ass, huh?"
"Do you think she gets that from running?" Clancy craned her neck to follow the shapely backside until it disappeared from view.
George squeezed Clancy a bit. "Would it be so bad if you were a Lesbian?"
Clancy's shoulders dropped a bit, "I just am not gay, George. I would know it." Another jogger caught Clancy's eyes, only this time the woman was running toward them.
George chuckled, "You know, you've scoped out almost every woman who has run by and not even glanced at a man."
"I have not!" Clancy sounded indignant.
"Have not… too!"
"Listen to me just a minute," George ordered, getting Clancy's undivided attention. "I want you to go home and look back over your life. I want you to really think about what you find attractive in a human being. Think about it, Clancy."
George glanced at his wrist watch and moaned, "I’ve got to get going, David is making dinner. Call me if you need anything." He kissed Clancy's cheek and took off down the sidewalk.
Clancy just stood there for a minute before turning and heading back to her apartment. She had some thinking to do.
* * *
Clancy was tired of talking to the ceiling. It said nothing that she wanted to hear. She needed some serious feedback, so she turned to the one who had been there in her childhood. Toby. He would know.
She rolled off the bed and headed for her closet, pushing aside the boxes and packages to reach the plastic bag at the back of the top shelf. Toby was the one who always listened. He was the one she could always turn to.
She reached into the bag and pulled him out, sitting him on her pillow. He silently watched as she lowered herself to the mattress to face him, resting her chin on her two hands.
She studied him for a moment. He was not as pristine as she remembered him. The fur was a little more matted and one eye was hanging by a thread. The moths had found him in the years since he had been put away, an odd spattering of holes now covering his elderly torso.
Vacant beaded eyes stared back at her, silently asking the question. “I don’t know, Toby. I just don’t know. You are my last resort.” As always, the battered teddy didn’t answer, at least not in words, but his advice was heard just the same.
Clancy felt uneasy about listening to Toby because it was not what she wanted to hear. Could everyone be right and she was wrong? Had she so underestimated herself? She rolled over onto her back with Toby in her hands, gazing deeply into his dark glazed eyes. Fear spiked through her. “Okay, if you say so…”
* * *
Clancy’s parents finally called and lamented the fact that her love life had stalled… again. As much as she just wanted to be left alone, her mother talked her into dinner Saturday evening. However, in her present state of mind if they brought up Carmen she was likely to tell them to go to hell.
* * *
Clancy brushed a sweaty palm down her pants before pushing the front doorbell. She had never felt this nervous about visiting her mom and dad but, then again, she didn’t have to fend questions about a ‘break-up’ before either. A break-up that wasn’t a break-up. It was all so ridiculous. She had a non-existent love life and they all wanted to know about it.
“Hello, dear. How have you been? Come in, come in.”
“Here…,” Clancy handed over a bottle of Chardonnay, “…for dinner.”
“Hello, pumpkin.” Her father embraced her enthusiastically, enveloping her in a big bear hug.
“How are you holding up?”
“There is nothing to hold up for, daddy.”
“But, what about…”
“I told you that we were not an item.” It had already started and she hadn’t even entered the house. “Let’s just have dinner without mentioning her, okay?”
“Hush, Audrey. If she doesn’t want to talk about it…”
“For the last time, there is nothing to talk about.” Clancy just knew dinner was a bad idea. “There was no girlfriend and no date, alright? End of story.” She let a bit of anger seep into her voice. “If you can’t accept that then maybe I better go home…”
“Oh, no… no… Come on in, dear.”
Clancy was almost forcibly ushered into the living room they were in that much of a hurry to welcome her inside.
“What’s the hurr–” Her words were cut short when the remaining dinner guests rose from their seats. “What’s going on?”
“Minerva brought a dinner guest.”
“Don’t start with me, mom. This is all a setup.”
“Don’t speak to your mother like that, young lady.” The elderly Jewish woman chimed in defensively.
“And you…. this is all your fault!” Her finger jabbed the air in Goldie’s direction.
“Me? What are you talking about?”
“You know very well what I’m talking about. Me and… and…. her!”
Clancy didn’t dare look at the final dinner guest. She was afraid to. Toby had told her what to do and she couldn’t bring herself to initiate contact. It meant admitting that she had been wrong all along and Carmen was right. She was confused enough without adding a healthy dose of embarrassment on top of it.
“Now stop this! It’s between you and me, and not them.” Carmen had stood aside as the argument escalated. Now it was time to cut it short before words were said that could not be withdrawn.
“Why can’t you all stay the hell out of my life!” Clancy could feel the tears welling up inside her.
“If we do that who’s left, huh?” Carmen stepped forward into Clancy’s personal space. “You’re blaming these people for your problems.”
“I wouldn’t have a problem if they hadn’t interfered.” Her finger that had waved in the air a moment before now prodded Carmen’s chest. “And you…. always teasing me…”
“Let’s take this somewhere else. Audrey, where is your bathroom?” Her eyes never left Clancy, pinning her in place with their anger.
“Down the hall, second on the right.”
“Thank you. Now…” Carmen forcibly grabbed Clancy’s elbow and steered her down the hall, almost throwing her into the bathroom before closing the door behind her. “What the hell do you think you are doing?”
“Just airing a few home truths.”
“That is crazy.”
“Are you saying that I’m crazy? I just bet you’ve been waiting to say that. Just because I don’t think I’m gay does not make me crazy.”
“I said no such thing. Now you’re putting words into my mouth!” Carmen stepped closer until she was mere inches from Clancy’s face. “I backed away, didn’t I? I gave you your space.”
“And you fully expect me to just fall into your arms, don’t you? That ain’t gonna happen. You may think you’re something else but, honey, I’m not falling for the act.”
The slap echoed off the tiled walls, sounding much louder than it actually was. Both women were stunned. Clancy held her burning cheek while Carmen’s mouth opened and closed like a guppy as she tried to mumble an apology. “I… I…”
Before she could say anything more, warm soft lips made contact with her own, stealing whatever breath she had in her mouth. Her eyes widened in confusion as the kiss continued, almost making her cross-eyed as she tried to focus her vision on Clancy.
The blonde wanted to smack herself. What on earth possessed her to do what she was doing? Heated emotion took ahold of her and she reacted instinctively. She should have realized that her instincts had answered her question once and for all but she was too busy trying to unlock her lips from Carmen’s.
Carmen stepped back. “I… I… errr….. ahh….” When she had accepted Minerva’s invitation to dinner, the last thing on her list was that Clancy would kiss her. No, scratch that. It wasn’t even on her wish list for the evening… in her fantasies maybe, but not in reality.
“Is everything okay in there?”
“Yeah.” The brunette’s voice was shaky. Carmen cleared her throat and tried again. “Yeah, everything’s fine. Go ahead with dinner.”
“Are… are you sure?” The tinge of concern was evident in Audrey’s voice.
“Yeah, sure.” Carmen’s eyes bored into the shaking blonde. “We’ve got some things to sort out.”
“Of course we do.” Carmen held out her hand waiting to see if Clancy would take it. Was the kiss a fluke or something more? The blonde just stared at it. “Yeah, it’s a hand. You’re supposed to take it.”
“Take it?” Clancy’s brain was playing catch up. She was stunned, to say the least. “Where?”
“Okkayyy…” Carmen chuckled. This confused made the woman just so damned cute. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Here?” Clancy had been reduced to monosyllables.
“Yeah, this house. Let’s go for a drive.”
“Are you going to repeat everything I say tonight? It’s going to make this conversation slow and painful.” She looked down at her extended hand, willing Clancy’s hand to join it. “Come on.”
“’Kay.” Clancy allowed herself to be led to the front door.
“Better let your mom know we’re leaving.”
“It would probably be an idea to expand your vocabulary when talking to her.”
* * *
“So how did you come to this sudden revelation?” Carmen was in no hurry to get wherever they were going to go, content to just cruise the streets until such time as Clancy’s mind returned to Earth.
“Geez, Clancy, get with the programme. So you’re gay now, huh?”
“It seems so…” Clancy couldn’t look at Carmen, instead content to let the wind blow her golden locks all over the place. Carmen had lowered the canopy on her convertible and they were driving along facing the elements.
“Who helped you to come to this conclusion?”
“Toby?” A man convinced her she was gay?
“Yeah, he’s my childhood friend. He’s been living with me since I was five years old.”
“And…,” the brunette gulped loudly, “… where does he sleep?”
“Why do you want to know that?” Clancy turned her gaze to the driver. “Jealous?”
“No, of course not. We’ve only had non-dates, remember?” Carmen kept her eyes firmly fixed on the road.
“Well he used to sleep with me but lately he’s been in the closet.”
“Maybe it’s time he came out…,” the brunette mumbled.
“Yeah, he sleeps on the top shelf…”
Suddenly Carmen shrunk her image to that of a midget… or maybe a contortionist.
“…although he’s not looking too well at the moment. He’s got a few holes in him and one eye is hanging on by a thread.”
Carmen cut across a line of traffic to pull up at the curb. “Well, what the hell are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at the hospital?”
“If your friend…”
“…Toby is injured, shouldn’t we call an ambulance?” Concern etched the darkened features, and it touched a spot within Clancy.
“What on earth for?”
“This man… Toby… you said he has holes in him and his eyeball is….”
“Toby’s not a man, silly.”
“He’s a teddy bear.”
“A… teddy… bear??? You based your life on the remarks of a teddy bear??” Carmen’s jaw dropped at the disclosure. She had never felt so stupid as she did at that moment, grateful that she hadn’t made this enormous stuff up at work. As far as she was concerned it was a perfectly good assumption that Toby was a man. The giggle emanating from the passenger seat forced her to shut her mouth. “Enjoying the moment?”
“And has this, errr, bear ever been wrong?”
“Never,” Clancy beamed proudly.
“When was the last time he influenced your life?”
Carmen wanted to smack the woman right upside the head. Either that or get her fitted for a nice comfortable straight jacket. “When did you last listen to him?”
“It’s been a while.” Carmen just glared. “Okay, when I was 12, alright?”
The brunette just shook her head. This had to be the most ridiculous conversation she had ever had. The woman she had a fondness for was taking advice from a broken down teddy bear. She should have been happy that he told her to ‘go for it’, because she would have been really pissed if he had convinced her otherwise. What was she thinking? The woman was nuts. Cute… but nuts.
“So… where are we going?”
“You want me to just keep driving around in circles? It’s gonna get cold with the top down.”
Clancy’s eyes slipped to her own blouse.
Geez, the woman was a ditzball sometimes. “The roof of the car, Clancy.”
“Oh, why didn’t you say that?”
“I just did. I… oh, never mind.” Why bother? It was an argument she felt she was never going to win. Carmen gripped the steering wheel tighter in aggravation. Clancy was right. What was so special about her that was drawing her back time and again?
“How about we go dancing at Francesca’s?’
“Whoa! Hang on there Wonder Woman! There’s no need to go overboard here.”
“What’s wrong with dancing?”
“Three weeks ago you were swearing black and blue that you weren’t gay. Now you want to go dancing in a lesbian bar?”
“You don’t have to be so ‘gung ho’ about the revelation. We should take this slow.”
“Why? I know, you know, they know. What else is there?”
“Knowing is one thing, Clancy. Doing is another. One kiss does not make sexual intimacy.” Carmen spared a second to look at Clancy’s reaction. The slight wince didn’t go unnoticed. “See? You are embracing this with as much fervor as you did with denying it.” The brunette paused. “You’re not ready for this.”
“Don’t tell me if I’m ready or not. That’s my decision.”
“But I’m involved in this as well, and I say you’re not.” In her peripheral vision she could see Clancy’s mouth opening and closing. “What’s the hurry? How about this being a date that isn’t a non-date?”
“But what about…”
“Believe me you’ll know when you’re ready.” Because I’m not… What was the matter with this woman? One imagined word from her little fuzzy friend and she was going to jump in with both feet. Sheesh…
“So… so what do we do now?”
Now what indeed. “Well, we can still go to Francesca’s for that dance, but we take it slow, alright? Light speed is just a little too fast for me.”
Clancy wouldn’t admit it but she was relieved. It was bravado that drove her to push herself on the poor woman. Maybe it was a diversion to stop Carmen from teasing her mercilessly about finally caving in and admitting they were all right. She really didn’t know; her mind was still reeling from the truth herself.
“Sure. Let’s go.” The car picked up speed as it headed downtown. Dancing with a woman? She needed her head read.
* * *
“Didn’t think I’d see you here again.” Naomi glanced over at the arrival of the two women.
“Don’t you have a home to go to, Naomi?” Carmen was now sure that the tall shark lived at the club.
“Of course not, darling.”
“Good to see you again,” Clancy chimed in, pleased to see the cringe as she was recognized by the businesswoman.
“Errr… yeah. Likewise. Come on, honey. Let’s dance.” Naomi led her current target towards the small square of parquet called a dance floor.
“You sure shook her up.”
Clancy watched as the barracuda pawed her dance partner, hands restlessly clawing at the shimmering dress. She looked down at what she was wearing. “I feel a little underdressed here.”
Carmen scanned the plain dress that her date was wearing. Date…. she was still trying to wrap her mind around that one. “I don’t know. You’re covering your underwear. That constitutes the dress code.”
“If that’s the case, then I think Naomi is trying to get her date thrown out.” The dress on the woman was slowly riding up her thighs as eager hands were trying to get to her. “Is she always this….”
“Slutty? Yep, that’s Naomi.”
“Then I thank you for the last time.”
Carmen guided her to a table near the back, where they could watch rather than be watched. The brunette ordered drinks and something to eat on their behalf. “I wouldn’t have let it get that far.”
“Naomi. I would have kicked her in the teeth if she did that to you.” Carmen kept her voice low, as much to hide her embarrassment at such an admission as to keep their conversation private.
“Why? As you so eloquently put it, I was on my own.”
“But I brought you here. It was my responsibility.”
“Your… responsibility?” Clancy was hurt. She had thought that maybe Carmen had felt something more than duty.
“Errr… yeah. Sort of.” The brunette tucked her hair behind her ears nervously. She didn’t know if she was ready for this conversation quite yet. Their drinks arrived followed closely by a plate of finger foods.
“I’m not really hungry.”
“You should eat something. We ran out of the house before dinner was served, remember? Drinking on an empty stomach…”
“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Clancy reached for one of the fancy pieces of toast, sniffing carefully what was perched on top of it.
“We can go to a restaurant instead if you like.” Carmen wasn’t thinking straight. When she left home she had expected a dinner with Clancy’s family. Now she had been thrown a loop and having to make up the night as she went. Unfortunately, things could go wrong on a whim. That was why every date she had ever been on had been carefully planned and executed.
“No, this is fine. I’ll eat my vegetables like a good girl.” Clancy giggled hysterically.
What was she on? Carmen was worried. She was sure that Clancy had absolutely no idea what she had committed herself to. Well, school was in…
* * *
“Now, just relax.” Carmen angled her head down at the slightly shorter woman. A shiver passed through Clancy as she stood ramrod in the arms of the brunette. “Do you want to dance or not?”
“Sure. I’m not?” In Clancy’s brain she could have been on the moon and not know it.
Carmen tugged her closer, her hands sliding up the blonde’s arms to settle on her back. “I don’t bite… really. I’m housebroken and everything.” The breath she had been holding relaxed when Clancy smiled. “That’s it, Clancy. Just shuffle.” The slow even beat led them around the tiny dance floor. It took all of Carmen’s considerable dance skill to avoid hitting Naomi a time or two.
This was just ridiculous. Clancy was acting like being a lesbian was an infectious disease. She had caught the ‘bug’ and now she was waiting out the illness until she was finally immune for life. Well, she had a shock coming. This particular illness was terminal.
“Will you stop looking like Bambi?”
“Huh?” The blonde had been caught staring.
“That ‘caught in the headlights’ look. Come on…” Carmen grabbed her date’s hand and led her away from the dance floor, stopping at their table to collect their bags and throw a few bills on the table for the meal and drinks.
“You’re not ready for this.”
“Hey!” Clancy tried to pull away but Carmen held firm. “Let go of me!”
“No!” The word came out of thin lips harshly. “You don’t know what you’re doing. Until you get a better grip on this situation, I think we should just keep it between the two of us.”
“Since when have you become my mother?” Clancy didn’t like being ‘told’, especially by someone she barely knew.
“Since you’re acting like an eight year-old. You keep this up and you’re gonna get hurt.”
“No, by people like Naomi. You are an appetizer to sharks like her.” Carmen kept pulling her unwilling passenger along until they reached the car. It was all going to hell. She just knew she should have had a plan…
* * *
Carmen walked into her apartment, throwing the keys onto the kitchen table. “Shit…” Her hands gripped the wooden dining chair in front of her, her head dropping to her chest. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Clancy refused to talk to her all the way home. There was a chill in the car and it wasn’t from the top being down. Without a word the blonde got out, not once looking back to her date or thanking her. That terminal illness she had been thinking about had claimed two more victims.
* * *
Carmen was now getting worried. It had been two weeks since they had separated and not a word from Clancy. She knew she was pissed but this… this bordered on eternal hatred. What had she done that was so wrong? All she wanted to do was protect her from getting hurt and now she was paying for it. Her hand had hovered over the phone numerous times in the last fourteen days but what could she say? I’m sorry? Somehow she had a feeling that wasn’t going to be enough.
* * *
Clancy’s mind had been in turmoil for so long that a quiet depression was settling in. She was mortified. Carmen had shown up her inexperience in public and she was afraid to show her face again. Work was one thing but her personal life was shot to hell. She had convinced herself that she was going to be an old maid for the rest of her life that first week. Now… well, now she wanted to prove Carmen wrong. Everyone around her had tried to manage her love life, maybe it was time that she took control herself. It couldn’t get any worse.
Snatching up her keys and purse Clancy left her apartment, intent on finding someone to share her life with. It was probably not wise to go out without a plan but, hey, she was that kind of girl. She was a great believer in karma and destiny, so if there was someone out there for her she would find him… or her.
Her practical Toyota chugged along at the speed limit as she made her way downtown to Francesca’s. It wasn’t until she was about to park that she realized where she was. Did she want to show her face there again? The familiarity of the environment was a definite plus on her first outing solo as a Lesbian. A Lesbian? She was still trying to get her mind around that piece of information. Well, no time like the present…
* * *
It was another lonely night in a long line of lonely nights and Carmen was sick of sitting at home wondering if her cell would ever ring. When it suddenly did she nearly jumped out of her skin. She hurriedly fumbled with the small device before getting a solid grip on it, flipping it open and pressing it to her ear. "Hello?"
The voice was not the one she expected and she frowned as she answered. "Yes, Naomi." She practically growled into the phone.
"Easy there, champ. I'm calling 'cause that little number you had in Francesca's a couple of weeks ago looks like she's in a jam."
Carmen sat up on the edge of her couch. "Clancy?"
"Short, blonde, five kids."
Carmen almost laughed out loud at Naomi's recollection. "Ummm, yeah, that's her. What's she got herself into?"
"Max." It was the one word reply that sent Carmen bolting to her feet.
"Max had her mitts on my Clancy?"
"Mitts, lips, and other things," Naomi reported. "Your girl is tanked and loose."
"I'll be there in ten!" Carmen flipped the phone closed and rushed to her room to change.
* * *
The roar of the engine and the wind rifling her hair did little to cool Carmen’s ire as she sped downtown as fast as she dared. Max was bad news. Time must have flown because she was sure that the woman was still serving time for trying to give an unwilling woman a new pierced ear with an ice pick. Max… Christ, how the hell did Clancy get mixed up with her? It was her own fault, she knew that. She had driven the blonde to do something rash and now she was gonna face the consequences. She only hoped the consequences were not life threatening.
* * *
Carmen practically ran through the front door of the establishment and immediately felt the tension in the room. In the center of the dance floor swayed Max, Clancy held tight against her despite the small woman’s inebriated protests.
“What took you so long?” Naomi sidled up next to the panting Carmen.
“Lights…,” she muttered. Carmen’s eyes took in the situation. Clancy was in no obvious danger at present but Max was unpredictable. “Why isn’t she out on the sidewalk on her ass?”
“Too scared.” Naomi had not had a first-hand encounter with the woman but her reputation was legendary. Max was almost as famous as Naomi herself, or so she thought.
“Riigghhttt.” Carmen hated resorting to any kind of violence, but she didn't think Max would just give up Clancy. "I'm going in." Carmen pulled her shirt straight and tucked her hair behind her ears.
Naomi watched Carmen with a critical eye. "You sure you want to do that? Max put some dude in the hospital just last week."
Carmen's head tilted to the side as she considered this new information. "I need a drink." She took off toward the bar and slapped her hand on the smooth wood surface. "Whiskey… neat." She felt Naomi come up beside her.
"Make that two." Naomi tossed a twenty on the bar. "My treat."
Carmen narrowed her eyes at her sometimes nemesis. "Don't do me any favors."
"Not a favor. Everyone doomed to their last moments should have a last drink."
Carmen lifted a finger and shook it slowly at Naomi. "I'll pay for my own last drink." She patted her pant pockets then cursed as she realized she had left her wallet at home in her rush to get to the club. A short glass of amber liquid was placed in front of her by the bartender, who extended her arm out and slapped her lightly on the shoulder. "Thanks." She picked up the glass and knocked it back in one smooth gulp then resettled the glass on the bar. She glanced to her right at Naomi and plopped her car keys on the bar, "There's at least five dollars in quarters in my ashtray. If this goes badly, help yourself."
Naomi smiled thinly and shook her head in acceptance before downing her own whiskey.
"Well… I guess this is it, huh?" She turned and looked at the dance floor where an intoxicated Clancy was nearly slumped against the very butch Max.
Naomi grabbed her by the shoulders and swung her around. Carmen looked questioning into Naomi's dark eyes.
"I can't let you do this alone. I once loved that girl out there," Naomi spoke seriously.
"You danced with her for three minutes then dropped her like a hot rock when you found out she had kids!"
Naomi shrugged. "It was a whirlwind romance."
Carmen's eyes rolled then she considered the offer. "Okay, you can help. Follow my lead." She turned back to the dance floor and strode off with a confidence she didn't feel.
She sensed Naomi at her back and wished it made her feel better. It was the excitement of the moment but it only translated in her mind to something similar to being confronted by a charging bull in a narrow hallway. Her breathing had become almost labored by the time she reached the gently swaying couple and she watched with a surreal detachment as her hand came up and tapped the dangerous and often unpredictable Max on the shoulder. To her surprise the woman's soft brown eyes lifted and a genuine smile graced her just too wide lips that pulled a little due to a jagged scar that bisected Max's left cheek.
"Hey, Carmen, we were just talking about you."
Carmen's right hand had disappeared behind her back and was balled into a tight fist at the ready. "Oh, yeah?"
"Yeah." Clancy's breathy voice answered as she peeked out from behind Max's large bicep. "Hi, Carmen."
"Hi, Clancy," Carmen said softly before looking back at Max. She reached back and pulled Naomi up beside her. "How about we trade, Max?"
"Now wait a minute!" Naomi protested but soon found herself swept into Max's strong arms as she twirled a giggling Clancy into Carmen's waiting embrace.
Carmen was pissed. “Just what do you think you are playing at?” Heavily lidded eyes tried to focus on what she was saying but Carmen could see that the woman could barely keep her eyes open let alone function on a speaking level.
“I’m having fun. See?”
“Time for bed, Clancy.” Carmen danced her towards the bar, ignoring the plaintive calls from Naomi for aid.
Clancy's wayward hand came down and slapped Carmen on her rear end.
“Oh, Lord…,” she muttered. Clancy was way past inebriated and had moved into Drunk Central.
“He’s here too?” Clancy looked around expectantly.
“Yeah. You can talk to them in my car.” Anything to get the woman out the door.
“I know where you live Pratka!” The thoroughbred racing horse had finally met her match in a two-ton jockey who wanted her own way. Naomi couldn’t break Max’s grasp and was stuck in an energetic… whatever-it-was. Dancing was a loose term for whatever Max was doing but who was she to argue with the brick shithouse steering her around the floor. It was going to be a long night and she knew Carmen owed her big time.
* * *
“Hey! You lied! God ain’t here!”
“He was hanging around somewhere nearby ‘cause he got us out of Francesca’s safely. You better thank him nicely.” Without preamble, Carmen twisted the key and shoved the car into gear. She wanted to put as much space between them and the club as quickly as possible.
“Where are we going?”
“I’m dropping you off home to sleep it off.”
”But I don’t want to go home.”
“Yes… you do, young lady.”
“You’re not my mom!”
“No, I’m not, but I’m sure she would be scolding you right now for doing something so stupid.”
“Stupid? Did you say stupid? Now hang on one minute.” The cool evening air was clearing her head by the second. “It’s my life.”
“Yes, it is.” Carmen was hard pressed to keep her attention plastered to her driving. An argument was not a good place to be while she was trying to negotiate the dark streets towards home. “What is this urgency to get…?” What did Clancy want? “… picked up… laid…. whatever. It’s a very dangerous game you play, Clancy.”
“So what? Maybe I feel like living dangerously.”
“And what if I didn’t turn up, huh?”
“What if she didn’t let go?” Clancy retorted. “Why did you come?”
“I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Sure you can.” Carmen couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
“Hey! Is this ‘pick on Clancy’ night?”
“It is when you do something dumb.”
“Stop the car.”
Carmen ignored her plea.
“Stop… the… goddamned… car!” The screech of tires vibrated noisily through Clancy’s head, setting up painful repercussions through her skull. “Owww… You trying to give me whiplash or something?”
“At least in hospital you’d be safe.”
“What’s so important about my safety?”
“Nothing,” Carmen grumbled, sinking into the leather seat huffily. “Now can we go home?”
“No. Why did you come?”
“I told you. I didn’t want to see you get hurt.”
“No.” A clammy finger came up to Carmen’s chin, silently asking for an answer.
“Because… because…” What was it she had said earlier? “You were my responsibility.”
“Not that again. No, there’s something else.”
“I thought you were drunk.”
“This cool breeze is doing wonders for my sobriety.” When Carmen made a move to close the roof, she stopped her. “Leave it down.” She paused for a moment. “Why?”
“Spit it out, woman.”
“Because… I like you. Okay? There! I said it.” The brunette didn’t like where the conversation was heading and put the car into gear once more. Not one word passed her lips during the trip home, despite Clancy’s efforts to get her to elaborate.
She wrestled the tipsy woman to her front door and made sure she was inside before escaping. The roof went up moments before the radio blared away with some heavy metal music, anything to drown out the voice in her head. How could someone so drunk become so intuitive? Maybe if they ever met again she should down a few shots and see if she could understand more clearly what made Clancy Fitzgerald tick.
* * *
Clancy woke up with the hangover from hell. The inside of her skull was one big kettle drum thumping in time with her heartbeat. Fuzzy, surreal images floated across her mind’s eye from last night.
“Bleh…” Her tongue felt like the bottom of a kitty litter tray. Not that she had a cat or eaten kitty litter, but the sentiment was the same. She felt like shit. She certainly had tied one on last night and was now paying for it in spades.
Any sort of movement was painful so Clancy just gave up and lay there, wallowing in the agony of excessive drinking. What happened last night? Was there something about dancing with a building? That couldn’t be right, yet the image of something large and immobile persisted. Something monstrously large in a boxing ring…. with Carmen. Carmen?? Carmen was fighting with someone over her because…. Clancy pushed herself to remember. What was it the brunette had said? Because… because…
It was just too hard. Her brain had a sprain and any kind of mental exercise hurt. “Ohhhhh…..” Even bemoaning the fact she had a hangover hurt. Clancy closed her eyes and begged the day to go away.
* * *
“Dumb, dumb, dumb…” Carmen muttered the obvious over and over to herself. Last night had been a disaster in every way but one. Max hadn’t caught up with them and they were alive. Then why didn’t she think that was a good thing?
She looked over at the bedside clock and rolled over. Carmen didn’t consider herself a very religious woman but a prayer or two today could only help her cause. After all, she had the rest of the day to eat herself into oblivion.
* * *
“What did you do to me?”
“Clancy?” This was the last person Carmen expected to hear from… and that included Naomi. It had been a couple of days since her run in with Max and she had given up her love life as a lost cause. “What are you talking about?”
“Last Saturday night. Something happened with some big woman and you. What was it?”
“You don’t remember?” Carmen was going to make a donation to the local parish.
“Yeessss…. Nnooooo…. Hell, I don’t know. I remember bits and pieces but I can’t put them all together.”
“You went to Francesca’s.”
“I got that part. What else?”
“You managed to find the butchest woman in the place and danced with her.”
“If Max had any more testosterone she could grow her own beard.” Carmen considered the thought. “Hang on, I take that back. She can do that now.”
“So I was dancing with a building…,” Clancy mumbled.
“Yeah, a big brick one that needs a lot of renovation.”
“And what happened after that?”
Carmen was sure that her goose was cooked with her admission but it seemed she had a second chance. “Naomi kindly butted in and you and I danced out of the establishment arm in arm.”
“And… nothing. I took you home and that’s it.”
“That’s it?” Clancy almost sounded disappointed.
“Well, I can’t confirm what happened after you closed the front door, but yeah.”
Carmen looked at her cell as the line went dead. “That was weird.” There was no hello and no goodbye. What did that mean?
* * *
Clancy wrapped her arms over the top of her head. So nothing happened. Then why didn’t she believe that? But the feeling she got of the night wasn’t bad. It was quite nice in fact. Something happened that Carmen wasn’t saying and she was keen to find out what it was.
* * *
The next day at work Carmen’s cell rang. “Pratka.” She was in work mode and answered brusquely.
“Clancy?” She mouthed at her assistant, her painted fingernail waving wildly at a board on the wall. “What can I do for you?” Carmen’s mind was only half there as a work deadline was fast approaching. “Hang on…” She moved the cell away from her mouth as she spoke. “Evan, no no no. Switch them around. Suzie gets that one…,” Carmen wandered over to the work table, touching the right-hand board, “…and editorial gets this one,” she indicated the left-hand board. “Got it?” Before Evan could respond, she had turned her back on the matter and gave her full attention to the caller. “Sorry about that.”
“I’ve caught you at the wrong time…”
“Oh, no no. It’s fine. I’ve done all I can. What’s wrong?” Clancy was calling her at work so she immediately thought the worst.
“Nothing’s wrong. I…,” Clancy’s breath whooshed down the phone line. “I… was wondering…”
When the blonde faltered Carmen picked up the conversation. “…wondering? Do you need my help?”
“Geez, this is hard,” Clancy murmured, at a loss for the words she so wanted to express.
“Do you want me to come over? Where do you work?”
“Oh, no don’t do that!”
“What’s wrong, Jane Bond? You’d have to terminate me with extreme prejudice?”
Clancy laughed. “Maybe. You never know.” She had wanted to ask Carmen to dinner but settled instead for another rendezvous. “Are you free for lunch?”
Carmen looked at the wall clock. It was mid-morning and there was still a lot of work to do. Still, it sounded like Clancy needed someone to talk to. “Sure. Where and when?”
“How about our favorite eating place, say around one?”
“Do I need a carnation?”
“No, I think I know what you look like.”
Carmen was so tempted to ask if it was a date but something told her that Clancy was riding on a knife edge at the moment. It was a date as far as she was concerned.
* * *
The 24th Street Diner was packed as usual for lunch. Clancy had gotten there early so she could grab the same booth where she first met Carmen Pratka. She glanced at her watch and sighed as the minute hand rested firmly on the quarter hour mark.
"Stood up?" the waitress asked as she refilled Clancy's coffee cup.
Clancy sadly shrugged, "It appears so. I'll take the check." The waitress nodded and left.
A rapid tap came to the window causing her to jump in her seat. She turned to watch Carmen point at the cell phone against her ear, making a goofy face and a talking hand in imitation of whoever was on the other end of the conversation. Someone was obviously giving her hell. Carmen turned away from her as she responded rather animatedly into the phone, giving Clancy a good view of herself.
Clancy took the opportunity to take a good look through the window at the woman who tormented her. She was impressed by the brunette's long form, today impeccably dressed in dark trousers and a crisp white shirt. The shirt sleeves were rolled up just below Carmen's elbows showing off tanned skin and a bit of defined muscle. She glanced up to find bright, clear blue eyes regarding her as Carmen flipped the phone close and smiled softly at her. Clancy blushed and dipped her head to focus on the wooden frame of the café window.
Clancy thought about the whole package that was Carmen Pratka. She was employed, confident, self sustaining, had no evident baggage and was attractive to no end. If Carmen were a man she would meet every qualification she was looking for in a mate. She had to hand it to her Aunt Goldie, she certainly did know what Clancy wanted and she delivered it in Ms. Pratka.
The whoosh from the cushioned seat opposite her made her look up into the smiling face of a beautiful woman who was quickly making it hard for her to stick by her 'I'm not gay' notion. "Hi."
Carmen took a deep breath and sighed. "Hi. Sorry about being late. We have a new client and everyone seems to have lost their brains. I didn't have your cell phone number or I would have called."
The waitress returned. "Okay, here ya go…. Oh! Hey, it's you two again! Did you guys work it out or can I get either one of your phone numbers?"
Clancy blinked mutely at the woman standing next to the table.
Carmen chuckled. "We'll let you know after lunch. May I have a menu?"
"Sure thing. Be right back." The waitress bounced away, hopeful of a number or two.
"Hey, you okay over there?" Carmen asked, reaching across the table and gently wrapping her long fingers around Clancy's wrist.
Clancy looked down at Carmen's hand against her arm and felt the radiating warmth there that made Clancy sigh contently. "Yeah, I'm good. Just thinking is all." She looked up and smiled. "Give me your phone."
Carmen cocked her head to the side. "What are you going to do with it, Spygirl?"
Clancy laughed, "Just hand it over, Pimp." Carmen placed her phone in Clancy's turned up palm.
Carmen watched as Clancy flipped her phone open and pressed a series of buttons then closed it and held it out to her. "What did you do? Add some kind of stealth tracking to it?"
Clancy blinked a few times. "I added my phone numbers, you weirdo."
Carmen quickly flipped the phone open and there at the top of her address book was Clancy's home and cell phone numbers. She experimentally called the latter number and smiled as the answering ring came from across the table. "Just checking." She flipped her phone shut and folded her hands together on top of the table.
"Can you be serious for a moment?" Clancy cocked her head to one side with a sigh.
"Sure." Carmen leaned forward. "I'm dying to hear why we're here."
Clancy took a deep breath and started to talk, but held her words in check as the waitress returned with the menu.
Carmen thanked the waitress and laid the menu on the table then she refocused on Clancy, "Sorry about that, go ahead."
"I'mreadytohavearealdate," Clancy blurted quickly then sank down into the booth.
Carmen blinked several times as she processed what Clancy had said. "Could you repeat that a bit slower? I don't think I got the whole thing."
Clancy blushed and repeated, "I am ready…"
"…a real date." Clancy looked at the surrounding booths and bit her lip.
Carmen leaned forward across the table. "As in, you and me?" She wagged a finger between herself and Clancy.
"On a date?" Carmen asked for clarification.
"Yes," Clancy whispered.
Carmen sat back in her seat and thought for a moment.
"Well?" Clancy asked in the face of silence from her lunch date.
Carmen ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head as her eyes closed. "Just a second, I'm trying to commit this to memory."
Clancy sat quietly waiting for Carmen to complete her meditation.
"Okay." Carmen finally said. "Since you've come to this decision, I leave it up to you to decide where we go and what we do."
Clancy pointed at herself, "ME? I don't know anything about asking women out on dates."
"Let's practice then. Say you want to ask me out on a date." Carmen received a blank stare from Clancy. "Come on, ask me out."
"Alright." Clancy sat up straight and placed her hands palm down on the table top. "So, Carmen," she smiled shyly at the woman across from her, "I was wondering if maybe you would like to have dinner with me Friday night, and perhaps go to a movie afterwards."
"Why yes I would," Carmen accepted. "What time will you pick me up?"
"Wait. That was practice."
"Nuh huh, there's no way you're getting out of this Clancy Fitzgerald. We are going out Friday, and you're picking me up. Now, what time?"
Clancy sighed in defeat, "Fine. Seven." She slid a napkin in front of Carmen and fished a pen out of her pocket, "Give me your address and clear, precise directions."
Carmen took the pen and napkin and wrote the directions on one side and drew a map on the other. She pushed the napkin back to Clancy just as the waitress returned. Carmen tapped the top of the menu lying on the table and ordered, "Two of those veggie sandwiches my girlfriend here likes so much."
"Well, damn…," the waitress muttered as she wrote down Carmen's order. When she finished, she looked at both Clancy and Carmen and smiled. "If it doesn't work out will you two remember me?"
"Oh, absolutely," Carmen promised and looked across the table at a horrified Clancy. "What? A girl has to hedge her bets."
Clancy just shook her head, "I must be insane."
"Maybe." Carmen winked and settled back into her seat with a wide smile.
* * *
Date night found Clancy in a rush. Never before had she been responsible for the entire evening. She had reservations at one of the more trendy and upscale restaurants that was just a short drive to the movie theater. Everything would be perfect if she could just decide what clothes to wear.
Clancy glanced at the clock on her night stand and growled. It was nearly six and she only had an hour before she would pick up Carmen. She shook her hands out, took a deep breath and squeezed her eyes shut tight before she expelled her breath and opened her eyes to look at the evening’s possible wardrobe selection displayed on her bed.
"She'll probably wear something gorgeous." Clancy shifted her weight onto one foot and placed one hand on her hip. "So, I at least need to be comparable." She discarded the black dress she wore the last time out. The phone rang and she walked around the bed to her night stand. Clancy sighed as she glanced at the caller ID and picked up the phone. "Hello, Mom"
"What are you going to wear?"
"Clothes." Clancy threw out a red dress and a floral skirt matched with a white blouse.
"Well I should hope so, young lady! I did not raise you to parade around town in your birthday suit."
Clancy rolled her eyes. "Is there something I can do for you, Mother?"
"I'm just excited for you is all. This is a record for you, dear. Four dates with the same person. Even my bridge club is excited for you."
All that was left on the bed was a black pant suit with a complementary ivory silk shirt and a pale green strapless dress. "Green strapless dress or the black tailored pant suit?" She asked into the phone.
"Pant suit, with that beautiful ivory blouse," her mother answered.
"Are you sure? That won't come off as bossy?" Clancy picked up the items and held them out at arm’s length.
"No, not at all. It says ‘classy and sophisticated’. That other dress says ‘whore’."
"Honey, just listen to me. Wear the pants. Be comfortable. Relax and have a good time. Carmen is a lovely woman and we can't wait to get to know her. Your father and I love you."
Clancy's eyes started to mist up. "Aww, Mom. I'm pretty lucky to have two wonderful parents."
"Yes you are. Now get dressed and get going. You only have forty-five minutes before you pick her up."
"Thanks, Mom. I'll call you tomorrow." Clancy hung up the phone and quickly set about dressing. She dashed out of her apartment with only fifteen minutes to spare and was winded when she knocked on Carmen's front door.
When the door was whipped open by a smiling Carmen all she could do was whisper a reverent ‘wow’.
Carmen looked down at her self. She had chosen a mid-length dress in black and white that showed just enough cleavage to be comfortable. Her hair was down and just slightly messy, a pair of moderate heels dangled from her fingers of her left hand, and completing the ensemble, a light wrap sat over her arm.
She looked back at Clancy and nodded, "You look pretty spiffy there also." She stepped out onto the small landing of her porch and closed the door behind her. Lifting her right hand she ran her fingers along the collar of Clancy's blouse. "Mmmm, I just love how that feels," she nearly purred.
"It… it’s… silk…" Clancy explained from a suddenly dry mouth. Then she noticed the pair of shoes in Carmen's hand, "Are you going to wear those?"
"Not until I have to." Carmen leaned closer to Clancy and whispered into her ear, "You look good enough to eat, Ms. Fitzgerald."
Clancy blushed and ducked her head shyly. "I think we need to get going. Reservations are for seven-thirty."
Carmen stood back, "Oh, alright." She followed Clancy to her car. After they were both settled and buckled in she turned slightly to take in Clancy's profile. "So, where are you taking me to eat?"
"Oooo, I like it." Carmen gushed, "And the movie?"
"Whatever is starting after we get done eating." Clancy started the car and pulled away from the curb, trying her hardest to concentrate on the road and her driving. Who knew that Carmen Pratka could be so distracting?
"That's cool. You're a kind of a fly by the seat of your pants girl, huh? Must be the spy training," Carmen joked and received a small laugh from Clancy.
"‘Always expect the unexpected’, page 73 of the Spygirl manual," Clancy retorted easily. Maybe this won't be so bad.
* * *
The restaurant was crowded and Clancy was glad she had called ahead. There was something powerful about stepping into a restaurant and being seated right away. She couldn’t keep the smile off her face as she paraded Carmen past the irritated diners having to wait for a table. So far the evening was perfect.
In deference to Clancy’s vegetarian regime, Carmen ordered something subtle. While there was meat in it, it wasn’t obvious to her dinner partner. Clancy, of course, ordered some sort of salad that Carmen suspected would only keep a rabbit alive. She could see that she was going to have to educate the woman’s palate. Either that or have something sinfully fattening and decadent for dessert.
Dinner conversation was easy and intimate between them. Carmen had to fill in more detail that Clancy. After all, Goldie had been forthcoming with some surprising information at the beginning of this fiasco. Well, at first a fiasco. Now it was turning out to be something completely wonderful. Damn that woman! She sure knows her stuff though. Carmen knew very well that Goldie herself would matter-of-factly tell her that in no uncertain terms.
Clancy had expected the internal butterflies to be now a full-blown moth invasion but she was surprised. There was none of the seduction routine she had to put up with from her male dates. Instead it was an easy banter, lightly touched with moments of flirtatious innuendo, but she found herself easily falling for the playful one-liners Carmen was prone to. She didn’t even mind the openly suggestive ones. Carmen was flexing her sexual repertoire but she didn’t mind in the least. Clancy found herself enjoying the evening, much to her dismay.
* * *
"I need to use the big girl’s room before we go, or I'll never make it through the movie," Carmen announced after the bill had been delivered and a very eager Clancy had snatched it up announcing it was her treat.
"I'll just pay this then wait for you outside. I thought we could walk down to the theater since it's only a block and a half. Is that okay?" Clancy asked rising from her seat.
Carmen looked down at her feet then smiled back up at Clancy, "Yeah, I think I can manage a block or two."
Clancy returned Carmen's smile. "I'll meet you outside then."
"Don't ditch me," Carmen warned with narrowed eyes, "I know where you live."
"Not a chance. This has been the best date I've been on since college."
Carmen moved up close to Clancy and smiled seductively. "You'll just have to tell me all about her on the way to the theater." She walked away from a slack-jawed Clancy.
Clancy took several deep breaths and turned just in time to receive her credit card receipt from the waiter. How does she know I went out with a girl in college once? Clancy had tucked that bit of information so far back in her mind that it was nearly forgotten. Besides, the date with the girl across the hall in the dorm didn't amount to anything more than a kiss on the cheek at the end of the night, and Clancy deciding she wasn't gay. Now here she was on another date with a woman and her brain was certainly sending signals to her body that her current situation was not only favorable, but preferable.
"Air, fresh air is what I need." She made her way out of the restaurant into the cool night air. It felt good as it filled her lungs and cooled her skin. Her head tilted back and her eyes closed as she took deep breath after deep breath.
"Hey, I thought it was you."
The voice made Clancy jump a little and she opened her eyes to find a large woman with very short hair standing just about an arm’s length away from her. "Have we met?"
Max took another step forward and smiled crookedly at Clancy. "You don't remember me?" she asked incredulously. "We danced all night until Carmen showed up and stole you away."
Clancy's eyebrows rose as pieces of that evening started to fall into place. "Francesca's."
"Yup!" Max took one final step and put her arm around Clancy's shoulders. "What do you say we take up where we left off?"
Clancy tried to slip from Max's grasp but only found herself held tighter by the woman. "I don't think we should. I don't know you and Carmen might not like it."
Max made an effort to look around. "I don't see Carmen anywhere. What she doesn't know won't hurt her anyway."
"Oh, she'll know." Carmen's menacing voice came from behind Max
Clancy sighed in relief. It seems her knight…ess…amazon…whatever had come to rescue her.
Max stiffened and turned to face Carmen, pulling Clancy in front of her like some sort of human shield. She never let go of her hold on the small blonde. "That wasn't a nice trick you pulled Carmen, I'm not drunk tonight."
"You'll still be going home alone though, so let her go and you can go in one piece."
Max laughed hard and humorously at Carmen and pulled Clancy back into her a bit firmer. "That sounds like a threat, Pratka."
Carmen took a deep breath, kicked off her shoes and took two steps forward. She lowered her voice, "Max, if you don’t let her go this instant anything that happens will be your own fault." The she made direct eye contact with Clancy and winked.
Max seemed to think about it. Carmen wasn't known as a fighter. She always talked her way out of trouble but Max didn't feel like being talked out of anything at the moment. "You're bluffing."
Carmen was still looking directly at Clancy. "Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to get away from your mother?"
Clancy nodded as sudden understanding came to her. "Yeah," she whispered on a wavering breath.
Carmen smiled. "As soon as you're ready."
Clancy took a moment to center herself then let her feet slip from under her, effectively slipping right through Max's arms and onto the sidewalk below. She scrambled behind Carmen, who was already moving forward to push Max backwards into the brick wall of the building behind her and pinning her there.
"You lose again, Max," Carmen growled.
"She didn't say she didn't want to go with me!"
Carmen bit the inside of her cheek as she turned just enough to motion with her head for Clancy to join them. "Max wants to know if you want to go with her."
Clancy shook her head. "I don't want to go anywhere with you, Max. Carmen and I are on a date."
Max looked hopeful for a moment. "Well how about tomorrow night?"
Carmen couldn't believe her ears. "Are you serious?" She grabbed Max and gave her a slight push, as if trying to knock some sense into the woman.
"Are you guys, like, exclusive?" Max asked with serious interest.
Carmen backed away letting Max relax against the wall. She didn't have that answer and once again looked at Clancy.
Clancy blushed and nodded, "Yeah, Max, we're exclusive, so ‘no’ on tomorrow, or for the foreseeable future, okay?"
Max looked shattered. "You're a heartbreaker, Clancy." She straightened out her clothes and with as much dignity as she could muster she walked away.
Clancy slipped her hand into Carmen's and found it to be a perfect fit. "I feel sorry for her."
"Who would have thought Max was a creampuff inside? Well maybe more like a week-old scone…rock hard on the outside and soft, mushy and slightly off on the inside. Don't worry about it. There are plenty of women out there who are looking for exactly what Max has to offer. She'll find her one and only someday." Carmen said as she watched Max disappear around the corner. Her eyes moved to Clancy who had snuggled up to her side. "My feet are cold."
"Put your damn shoes on, Pratka. We have a movie to get to."
"Yes ma'am." Carmen retrieved her shoes and slipped them on, then joined Clancy in a slow stroll down the sidewalk hand in hand. "Exclusive, huh?"
"Yeah, my parents want you to come to dinner on Sunday."
"Wow, that's serious. I hope we can stay and eat this time."
Clancy squeezed Carmen's hand. "I promise no more freaking out. I might have a few things to learn, but I'll do my best to manage without a total meltdown."
"I can handle a little freak out now and then," Carmen promised and then suddenly pulled Clancy into a darkened doorway just off the sidewalk. "How about I test it out?"
"Wha…?" Clancy's words were cut off by Carmen's soft lips against her own, and she sighed softly as Carmen's tongue brushed against her lower lip. Clancy had just begun to open her mouth a bit to deepen the kiss when Carmen ended it.
Carmen studied Clancy carefully for any signs of distress but only found a woman who was in that place between disappointment and happiness. "Well I guess that went okay."
"Wonderful." Clancy sighed and leaned her head against Carmen's shoulder, "Why did I fight this?"
"I have no idea, but I'm glad you've come to your senses." Carmen checked the sidewalk before giving Clancy one quick kiss. They moved back into the light and continued their walk toward the theater. "I wonder what's playing?"
Clancy half shrugged and leaned against Carmen. "I don't care."
Carmen smiled and tightened her hold on Clancy's hand. "Perfect then, because I don't care either."
* * *
“What was that movie we just watched?”
“It was no chick flick, that’s for sure.”
“No, I think it was a guy’s flick, with lots of gratuitous sex and violence.”
“And I can’t remember a thing about it.”
Carmen chuckled. “Me either.”
“So…” Clancy stood awkwardly at Carmen’s front door. “I suppose I better say goodnight then.” She wasn’t sure how to proceed and gently prodded Carmen to take over.
Carmen’s chuckle shifted to a toothy grin. Before the blonde escaped she spoke, “Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?”
She could almost feel the vibrations from the young woman standing nervously on her stoop. The key slid in the door by instinct. Carmen’s thoughts were elsewhere, wondering what the rest of the night would bring. While she knew where she wanted it to ultimately end, the night’s events was not hers to direct. Whether Clancy liked it or not, the young woman would have the final say.
“Come in…,” Carmen murmured, switching on the overhead light as she moved further into her dwelling.
“Hmmm…” Clancy looked around at the modern setting, neat and tidy and very much like an executive’s home.
“Is that a ‘hmmm’ good or ‘hmmm’ bad?” Carmen threw her keys into the glass bowl sitting on a shelf near the tiny entrance hall.
“Oh! Oh, good. Very…”
“Gaudy? Modern? Efficient?” Carmen offered.
“You. It’s very you.”
“How diplomatic of you.” Carmen reached for Clancy’s jacket, lifting it off her shoulders and hanging on the hook inside the hall closet. “Now, let me get you that coffee.” Some distance was needed at this point otherwise Clancy would have escaped. “Come in and sit down.” Her hand rested lightly on Clancy’s lower back, gently guiding her towards the sofa. She detoured to the stereo putting on something soft and relaxing in the background.
“So, how long have you been here?” Clancy had to raise her voice to be heard in the kitchen.
“Five years now. It’s okay.”
“Okay?” The blonde looked around the well appointed apartment. “It looks pretty good to me.”
Moments later Carmen emerged with two mugs of steaming coffee. “It may look Redbook but it’s missing something.”
Clancy looked again, unable to see what needed to be added. “I can’t see anything wrong with it.”
“It’s missing someone to share it with.” Carmen nearly retracted what she had said when she heard the harsh intake of breath from her date. “Sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“No. I asked and you answered. You are entitled to your opinion.”
Carmen took a large mouthful of the hot beverage, steeling herself for the answer to a question that had been sitting on her lips since they had left the restaurant. “But it’s one you don’t share.”
“I didn’t say that. It just took me by surprise, that’s all.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Should I be afraid?”
“If you have to ask if you can ask, then maybe I should be running out the door.”
“When you told Max we were exclusive, did you mean it?” Carmen blurted it out before her courage failed her. But she felt the moment slip away when no reply was immediately forthcoming. “Forget I asked –”
“Yes,” Clancy murmured. “Yes, I did… do.” It was Clancy’s turn to fearfully await a reply.
“How long have we been exclusive, Carmen?” Why was she doing this? Why not just be content that they were together now.
Carmen took another swig of coffee, savoring the extra moment before her secret would be revealed. “From the moment I saw you, Clancy.”
The blonde didn’t know what to say. Her right hand rose to fidget with the ends of her hair, twisting them animatedly around her finger. “Oh…” It was only one word but it spoke volumes. Of course, her lips added a comment or two by tipping upwards into a shy smile.
“Yes…, oh. It was quite a shock to me as well.” Carmen sat down the half-empty mug on the coffee table and straightened in her seat. “Now you know why I didn’t say anything sooner.”
Clancy remembered such a comment early in their… what was it? It certainly wasn’t a courtship. It was more a…demolition derby. They certainly had enough crashes along the way.
Carmen watched carefully as all the questions crossed Clancy’s face. She knew the woman was processing the revelation and took some comfort from the fact that she hadn’t slapped her face, screamed bloody murder or ran out of the house. And still no mention of that restraining order that had been hanging over her head. That was promising.
“So where do we go from here?”
“Go? Anywhere you want it to. It’s up to you.”
“Me? I have to make all the hard decisions?” Clancy was panicking. Why couldn’t Carmen just do something and she could numbly follow.
“Yes, you do. I want no doubts here, Clancy.” She reached for the shaking hand and held it in her own. “But I want you to know that I take this very seriously. It’s not a game to me, Clancy. That’s why you have to lead. We will go at your pace and not mine.” Carmen knew it was going to kill her but that was the way it had to be. She had invested a lot in this relationship and she wanted it to work.
“What the hell do I know?” There was an edge of panic to the words. Going out for dinner was one thing but anything to do with afterwards was a whole other ballgame.
“Go with your gut.” Carmen tried very hard not to smirk at the endearing look of fear smeared across Clancy’s face.
“My gut’s got nowhere to go.” Clancy was losing her grip. “Please, Carmen.”
The brunette’s hand left Clancy’s and moved to cup her cheek. “Relax.”
“Relax?? You’re not the one driving this truck. I’d prefer to be the back seat driver.”
“Well, if you say so…” Carmen’s thumb brushed the soft skin in a gentle even motion, almost as if calming a filly. She moved in slowly until her lips were barely touching Clancy’s. “All you have to say is ‘no’.”
But all thought was gone for the moment. Instead all Clancy’s senses were centered on her lips or, more precisely, the three inches of skin touching Carmen. The kiss earlier in the night had been no fluke. Those same butterflies were doing another happy dance in the pit of her stomach.
Carmen backed away to see her reaction, moving in again before the feeling had washed away. She deepened the kiss, allowing her tongue to paint the moist lips trying to find her. Slowly, sensuously she explored for the first time. There was nothing like that first discovery for Carmen. It was all new, uncharted and wildly exciting. It was virgin territory, so to speak.
It was at this point that Clancy had an epiphany. The lack of facial hair was number one with a bullet on her must have list for a mate. Actually, lack of other body appendages was also added to that list. As her body reacted to the soft skin sliding over her own she finally knew what everyone else had been trying to tell her for the last few weeks. Her emotions finally found what they were looking for and she was soaring.
There was no expectation or judgment, which she had always felt when she was out on a date with a man. Their expectation was not her own and hence the judgment for not putting out. Clancy knew if she said ‘no’ Carmen would understand, and that made all the difference in the world.
“What?” Carmen asked.
Clancy hadn’t realized that Carmen had stopped kissing her, instead gazing at her with concern. “Nothing. Nothing at all.” She graced the woman with a smile, letting her know that everything would be alright. To illustrate her point, she placed her hand behind Carmen’s neck, gently pulling her in for another kiss. She touched, she teased and she explored, pleased that Carmen was allowing her to do so unhindered.
Her lips slid off the moist skin and found a pulse point that seemed to be begging her to touch. The steady even beat was like a metronome, beating in time to her own heart. Gently her lips pulled at the pliant skin, nipping until she felt Carmen pull away. “What?” It was nice that she could make the brunette react.
“That’s a dangerous game you play, Spygirl.” Carmen could barely get out the words over the thundering beat of her heart. With little effort Clancy had her in the palm of her inexperienced hand.
Carmen pulled back, grabbing Clancy's hands between her own. “How far do you want this to go? Because now is the time to stop before things get out of hand.” She was barely holding onto her resolve to keep things slow. Just one touch from her dinner companion and her libido was on fire.
“You’re asking that now?” Clancy was barely conscious of consequences at this point.
“Just think about it, Clancy honey. This is your first time. You’re not going to explode on contact or something, are you?” Carmen tried the humorous angle…anything, to get Clancy to think about what was going to happen. She didn’t want any regrets afterwards.
“No, I’m explosive-proof. And, yes, I’m sure. I may be slow to admit when I’m wrong but I’m not wrong about this.” She eyed her companion carefully. “You’re not scared of me, are you?”
“Scared?” Carmen voice rose to a squeak. “Me? Nah! Unless, of course, you are a black widow, then I’m really scared.”
“Black widow?” Clancy was missing the point.
“You know, she eats her partner.”
“Ahh... ohhh…” Her skin flushed rapidly as the meaning sunk in. “Well, then maybe you better be the black widow.”
A throaty chuckle escaped Carmen’s lips. “You got a deal.” She sobered. “Do you really want to do this?”
“I understand what you’re asking, Carmen. It’s my gift to you.”
“That’s a pretty big gift, my friend.”
“I know, but I want to give it to someone I trust.”
“Trust?” Carmen was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t something more to it to warrant the sacrifice of her virginity.
“That…and more.” Clancy didn’t know if she was ready to use the other word just quite yet but she knew Carmen needed to hear it. “I…I…,” she gulped loudly and tried again, “I…love you Carmen Pratka.”
“Love? Me? Are you sure?” Carmen didn’t want to question the woman’s sincerity but Clancy’s track record so far was far from perfect.
“Of course, I’m sure!” Clancy was ticked off. “What sort of question is that?”
Carmen swooped in and captured Clancy’s lips before the moment was completely lost. She wanted to make love not war. “I just don’t want to be the biggest mistake of your life,” she whispered.
Suddenly Clancy was multitasking; her body was busy absorbing the loving ministrations of the woman hovering over her while her mind was reassuring her body that it was okay to go ahead. “Not this time,” she whispered back.
Here they were fumbling around like a couple of teenagers on her sofa. The bed…the bed… her mind was calling. Where the hell was the bed? Carmen was one of those gawky teenagers right at this moment, about to do something sinfully naughty on her parent’s living room sofa. “Come on…” It took more will than she thought possible to unlatch her lips from Clancy’s skin. “Let’s go find a bed.”
She wandered up the hallway with Clancy numbly in tow, mistakenly opening wrong doors at every turn. It was her own house and she had lost the bedroom. The final door answered her prayers. “Hallelujah…,” she muttered.
So this was it, Clancy thought, her moment of truth. Those butterflies of hers in her stomach spotted the flame and were about to kamikaze into it. Clancy had nothing to worry about, she knew that. She thought she had a pretty good handle on the woman holding her hand. Still, she had held onto her virginity for a long, long time and it was reluctant to leave her.
Carmen could feel the slight pull up her arm. “Come on, we’ll just lie here.” Disappointment painfully spiked through her, but rushing Clancy would only end up in them making love once, and she already knew that once would never be enough.
They moved towards the bed but Carmen didn’t pull down the covers. Instead, she lay on top of them, gently patting the empty space beside her.
Clancy nervously reached for the buttons on her blouse.
“Don’t do that. Just lie here with me.”
“That’s all?” Clancy almost sounded disappointed.
“For now. Just lie here and give me a cuddle.”
* * *
Clancy didn't remember falling asleep and didn't quite know what woke her. She blinked and tried to focus on the small digital clock on the night stand. Five minutes after three in the morning. She was aware of Carmen pressed tightly against her back, her breath tickling her neck. A long arm was draped over her side and she couldn’t stop herself from sliding her hand along Carmen's arm and entwined their fingers. A smile touched her lips as those slender digits tightened. She shivered as Carmen's voice breathed into her ear.
"Why are you awake?"
"Dunno," Clancy admitted and took in a deep breath.
"Open the night stand drawer," Carmen whispered as she placed a soft kiss on Clancy's ear.
Clancy was reluctant to move because it meant she would have to let go of Carmen's hand.
Carmen smiled against Clancy's skin, "If you open the drawer you'll find a bag of peppermints in there."
Tiny little sparks raced up and down her spine as Carmen kissed her ear and neck, reinforcing the fact that she didn’t want to go anywhere.
"If you get us a couple mints then we can have some nice kisses." Carmen’s tongue came out and laved the available skin. "I don't think bed breath is something anyone should endure."
"Oh." Clancy sighed and reached out for the night stand drawer. She had to move away from the warmth of Carmen's embrace to get the drawer open, but she found the small cellophane bag of mints.
"One for me, please."
Clancy felt her way into the bag claiming one mint, unwrapping it and holding it up for her bedmate to claim. She was surprised and yelped a little when soft, warm lips took the mint from her fingers.
"Now, one for you." Carmen reached into the bag and found a mint, unwrapped it and held it gently against Clancy's lips.
Clancy claimed her sweet mint and let it roll around her mouth a few seconds. "How can you see? It's nearly pitch black in here."
"There's enough light for me...," Carmen reached her hand up and let the back of her knuckles brush against Clancy's cheek, "…but I'll turn up a little light if you like."
"Maybe just a little." Clancy felt the dip in the bed as Carmen moved. A sliver of light cut across the bedroom from what she assumed was the bathroom. Carmen was now visible and she and felt herself blush from head to toe as she also clearly saw that her companion had sometime in the night ditched her dress and was left only in a very black, lacy bra and a matching pair of panties. Carmen was tall, curvy, and perfect in every way. Quickly she looked away before she was caught gawking. The bed dipped again as Carmen settled beside her.
"Hey…," Carmen's mint-laden breath washed over her.
Clancy looked up and couldn't help but smile. "Hey..."
Carmen reached out and gave a little tug on the blonde’s shirt. "As much as I love this blouse, I think you would be more comfortable without it."
So this is it. Clancy smoothed down the front of her blouse with as much calm as she could muster.
Carmen saw the hesitancy and decided to go slow. Start at the beginning and everything else would come with time.
Clancy soon found out that kissing Carmen Pratka on the street was nice, kissing Carmen Pratka on the sofa was extremely nice, but kissing Carmen Pratka fully reclined in bed was the most wonderful feeling in the entire universe. If those lips felt that good on her mouth, then she definitely wanted to feel them other places.
Carmen found herself pushed onto her back with Clancy straddling her torso. For a woman who had never experienced sex before Clancy’s look was almost predatory. Resting her hands on Clancy's waist, she waited for her to make the next move.
"I want to feel more," Clancy whispered.
Carmen's mouth opened and she nodded before biting her bottom lip. Her hands were moved from Clancy’s hips to her breasts, Clancy’s hands resting over her own in silent invitation. Instinctively she squeezed, gently kneading the soft flesh with agile hands. If there was a sound that she would qualify as erotic it was Clancy’s low moans. She needed to know. "Show me what you want."
Clancy surprised herself with the sounds she was making. No one had ever made her feel this good and she wanted to know more. Her head tipped back as she placed Carmen's fingers on the buttons of her silk blouse.
Carmen didn't need an invitation. She made quick work of her bedmate’s clothing, lavishing kisses and touches as she moved along. Their positions were reversed by the time she had finished and she now looked down on a very naked and aroused Clancy Fitzgerald. "Beautiful."
Clancy wondered where her blush had run off to when Carmen's praise made her squirm in delight. She lifted her hands and laid them flat along her lover's taut stomach. She didn't miss Carmen's momentary lack of breathing and smiled, knowing she was having as much of an affect on her lover as Carmen was having on her. She placed her hands over Carmen's breasts and traced the pattern of the lace covering them. "Will you take this off please?"
Give the woman what she wants was always her motto, especially in the bedroom. With a deft hand Carmen snapped the hook and the offending material fell away, leaving her breasts dangling unfettered. She drew a breath as Clancy felt her for the first time. It was tentative but laced with a hint of want, and it was very sexy. The caress became more confident as the woman was left to discover on her own, drawing an agonized moan from a particularly inventive stroke. Strong hands encircled her back, drawing her down until their bodies touched.
Clancy had watched Carmen’s reaction intently, trying to gauge a reaction to her advances. The moan was nearly her undoing and she pulled on the woman until they were sharing the same breath. “Make love to me, Carmen.” The words were foreign in her mouth and yet they seemed so right.
“Your wish is my command, Spygirl.” Carmen rolled over until she was on top. Her hands started to wander, learning everything that was Clancy. “Tell me…,” her hand dipped a little lower, “…what do you actually do for a living?” That same hand moved seductively. Carmen knew exactly what she was doing and the reaction she would get. She literally held Clancy’s passion in the palm of her hand.
“I…I…,” the blonde could barely breathe let alone think. The woman was doing things to her that had not even occurred to her virgin imagination. “I…ayeyiyiyi…” Her last breath was ripped from her throat as Carmen touched her. Pleasure, pain, it all seemed a blur to her.
“Sorry…,” Carmen whispered, “…I didn’t quite catch that.” She grinned as Clancy tried to get a hold on what she was feeling.
“Me…oh… me either. What was the question again?” Clancy was babbling, she knew that, but she was lucky that any words came out at all. “God, what are you doing?”
“Loving you like you asked me to…my love.” The skin around her eyes crinkled with joy as Clancy’s eyed widened in wonder. “Who are you, Clancy Fitzgerald?”
“You…you…ahhh…,” a spasm ripped through her body as agile fingers played her, “you want to know that…ah ah ah….now?” The pleasure continued to roll over her like a tidal wave as Carmen’s fingers continued to move. The pain bit was about to kick in but she didn’t want the pleasure to end. Her hips shifted back and forth in the continuing battle of completion and torture.
“You’ll tell me the truth now,” Carmen purred. She had the woman at her mercy. “What is your job, Spygirl?”
“I own… a company…," Clancy squeaked out.
"What kind of company, sweetheart?"
"Cleaning company…," Clancy panted, "…we clean government offices." There was a long moan then a plaintive, "Oh please, Carmen, please."
“Really?” She suspected as much but she was prepared to play the game, but relented when Clancy nodded quickly. “Now, sshhhhh.” Carmen lessened the strength of her stroking, bringing the blonde down slowly back to earth. She pulled her into her arms and held her close as the twitching slowly subsided.
“I love you, Clancy Fitzgerald.”
They were the most beautiful and profound words she had ever heard. Someone actually loved her for who she was. Clancy sought out the lips hovering just above her head, as if capturing the essence that had just come out of the woman’s mouth. The love was caught in that one moment. She smiled during the kiss, unable to stifle her giddy glee.
Carmen pulled back. “What?” She was confused. “Did… did I say something wrong?”
“No, Carmen. You said something very right.” Clancy leaned into the hand resting on her cheek, greedily absorbing the love in that simple touch.
She was glad she had finally accepted the truth of it all and the one who had made it all happen.
Return to the Academy