Laurel woke from a strange dream. She lay in bed staring at the ceiling for several long moments until she realized she was in bed alone. She let her hearing sort out the natural sounds of the Warehouse, the light snores from Mozart and the sound of a car horn. Finally, she heard soft coughing coming from the direction of the bathroom.

Light reflected off the wooden floor and pooled around the doorway to the bathroom. Pushing the door completely open, the bassist looked around inside. Nicole was kneeling by the toilet ridding her stomach of dinner. She looked pale in the soft light, and Laurel was concerned. She had been around the photographer enough to know that Nicole was not prone to unnatural weight watching habits.

"You ok?" Laurel knelt by her lover and brushed the silky dark hair away from the pale face.

"Yeah, I just had a nightmare, and my stomach is in knots."

"Here," Laurel sat down on the cold tile and pulled the photographer into her arms. She made sure to keep her lover’s head near the toilet just in case.

They stayed in that position for several moments. Laurel gradually felt the feeling leave her lower extremities as the cold from the tile seeped into her legs. To relieve the sensation, she began rocking and humming an old lullaby in the photographer’s ears. When she felt the slight shuddering of her lover’s muscles subside, Laurel knew the worst was over for the moment.

"Wanna try to get more sleep?"

"Yeah, but I’d love to brush my teeth first."

"That might be a good idea," She joked softly as she opened her arms and let Nicole leave her embrace.

As Nicole brushed her teeth, Laurel walked in small circles to get the blood flowing back to her lower body. She watched as the photographer brushed her teeth twice and then rinsed with mouthwash. Nicole was nothing if not thorough. This time however, the bassist had cause to be grateful. She felt good breath was a great virtue.

"Are you going to be alright?" Laurel asked as they curled back into bed together.

"I think so. I don’t know what came over me."

"Stress. It happens to everyone."

"I know. I just hate having a nervous stomach. It’s gotten better over the years. I got so sick before a recital one night that I almost wasn’t able to go on."

"Why haven’t you played for me?" Laurel had never heard the photographer even talk about the violin. "You finally got to see me play the stand up bass."

"And I was very impressed," Nicole rolled over and put her head on the bassist’s shoulder. "I didn’t know you wanted to hear me play."

"Well, not at the moment," Laurel laughed softly. She began rubbing her lover’s shoulders. "But one day it would be nice."

"Then one day I shall play for you."

"Good. So now since that is settled, we should get some sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day."

"Yes it is. Thank you for being here," Nicole leaned up and kissed her lover softly. "And you are right. We should get some sleep." She kissed the bassist’s collarbone. "Eventually."

"Why Nicole Herbert, are you trying to seduce little ole me?"

"Hmm, yep," She continued to kiss her way to the bassist’s mouth. "That was the plan."

"Good plan."

They did sleep eventually. After they were both sated and relaxed enough for sleep, they drifted off in one another’s arms. The physical energy they had shed brought them closer together. Nicole had needed reaffirmation, and for Laurel, the bassist could not always say what she wished. She inhabited a very physical world and dealt with everything on that level. At times of great emotional stress, sometimes the best way to handle everything is through physical contact. It was something Nicole was learning to appreciate.

Staring out at the gathering of her whole family, their friends and all the other people present, Nicole was glad that Danny and Sheryl had packed her best suit. It was a black suit complete with a skirt that she had worn for a funeral two years prior to this one. Everyone, including Laurel, was in black or dark grey attire. The bassist however was not wearing a skirt. Nicole smiled at the thought of her lover in a dress. She quickly stopped the slight expression before it could become a fully formed grin. She was nervous enough without adding the family’s condemnation of a joyful act to her already heavy burden.

The old cemetery was crowded with crumbling stone and mourners. True to form, Adia had foregone the jazz funeral theme and kept the tone somber. Cajun tradition dictated a celebration of the ending of a life. The departed was thought to be going to a better world, and they found celebration in grief. Her grandfather’s funeral had been such a display. His friends had sung his favorite jazz hymn as they carried the casket to the large marble structure. No one was interred in New Orleans. The city was below sea level and no one wished to pay for reburial.

The mass had been short comparatively speaking and the casket had wisely been kept closed. They had not attended the wake the night before. Nicole did not feel as if she would have been able to handle both. Jessica and Stan had gone after dinner. The photographer had stayed at the Warehouse and watched as Laurel, Danny, Greg and Sheryl played pool.

The current priest had not known Margie well and focused in on the good points he had been told earlier that morning. Nicole had watched her grandmother through the entire service. She had almost begun crying herself, though the old woman had shed no tears, when she felt a smaller hand take hers in a firm and reassuring grip.

Someone, the photographer did not know whom, had planned on the eulogies to take place outside the family mausoleum. The casket would be placed in the grip of the cold grey stone later that evening. Margie would be placed to the left of their father. The placard would be placed on that spot in the morning. Nicole did not plan to be present for it.

Phil had chosen to speak first. For the first time since her grandfather died, Nicole saw her uncle cry. He barely made it through his speech. He had written it before the funeral and the piece of paper he referred to was almost dust by the time he returned to his position by his partner. Jay put his arm around Phil’s shoulders in a silent expression of love and support. Even the less emotional man had tears in his eyes.

"And now, I’ve been told Margot’s sister would like to say a few words," The priest announced to the assembly. "Nicole?"

Nodding in resolution, Nicole stepped from the protective circle her friends, her brother and her lover had formed around her. Her heels sunk a little in the wet grass and she fervently prayed that the skies would remain clear until after the funeral. She walked slowly. Her knees were shaking and she fought the urge to return to Laurel’s arms. Her stomach roiled once she stood behind the makeshift podium. She took several long breaths to calm herself.

"I was told recently that sometimes people are born with a ‘hole in their soul’. It was something I was not aware was possible," Nicole’s voice gained strength when she caught her lover’s gaze. "It is my belief that Margie had such a hole. I do not know if this was something she was born with or something she developed later, but it is my great regret that I was unable to assist her with it. We were sisters but not friends and that is a regret that will follow me all through my life. I loved her dearly, and I wish I could have had the chance to tell her so," She felt the tears begin to flow.

"We lost our parents at a young age. I never thought about how it affected any of us. Apparently it affected Margie more than I’ll ever know. Over the last few days I’ve been thinking back about my relationship with my sister. I remembered when she taught me how to paint my toenails, picked on me about having a boyfriend when I met Danny, took me to the movies and read me excerpts from books we were not allowed to have in the house. Those memories stopped several years ago when we let our lives come between us," She wiped her cheeks and took another calming breath.

"I know this is supposed to be about Margie, but we’re family and not easily separated," She gazed out at the crowd. Jessie had tears flowing freely from her eyes and Stan looked as if he were struggling to keep his tears in place. Laurel gave a small smile and nod. Sheryl and Danny were openly crying. Greg looked as if he were also trying to maintain his image and not give in to tears. She gave them each a small smile before continuing.

"I love my sister. I always have and I always will. I feel betrayed that I was unable to help her find a way to ease the ache in her heart, to fill the hole in her soul and to have been robbed of her so soon after she returned to us. Always I will remember the times we had when we were young. All the times we went to the zoo, the way she diligently practiced the piano, the times she beat up kids for picking on me, and how she snuck me in to see my first R-rated movie. It will be hard, but those are the memories I shall always hold dear. Those are the ones that I will try to keep in mind when I think of her. But the regret that we’ll never share anymore of those moments will always be there. They’ll be as constant as her presence for I learned at a very young age that those you love and lose are never far from you. They can hear us when we think of them," She looked down at the casket. "Margie, I love you and I’m so sorry."

She barely made it back into the waiting arms. Laurel had tears in her eyes and held her lover tightly. Nicole never saw the unreadable look her grandmother gave them. Laurel did and defiantly lifted her chin in challenge. Wisely, the old woman found something else to capture her attention.

"So what do we do now?" Laurel asked as the mourners returned to their vehicles.

"Let’s go home, please?"

"Anything you want."

Laurel had been under the impression that Nicole had referred to her house in Hattiesburg when the photographer had said she wanted to go home. Instead, the bassist soon realized that Nicole considered the Warehouse her home fully as much as the small wooden house in Mississippi. While the bassist enjoyed the companionship Jessie, Stan and the others provided, she desired to return to her home. She felt life was simpler there.

Jessie and Stan had returned with them to the Warehouse. Southern tradition dictated that mourners gather for food and memories after a funeral, but they had all voted to abstain from visiting Adia’s house in the Garden District. The Herbert cousins knew they would catch misery from their grandmother for missing such an event, but they were willing to risk her ire. They enjoyed visiting with their cousins too much to attend such a morose festival of grief.

"When is everyone leaving?" Stan asked. He was reluctant to say goodbye to his family and friends.

"Tomorrow," Jessie did not look happy at the prospect of leaving. Sheryl gripped her hand tightly.

"Me too," Michael knew he had to return to college if he wished to graduate in May.

"Yeah, I have to work the broadcast tomorrow," Danny added his scheduling conflict in with the others though he knew it was unnecessary.

"I guess we should return too," Nicole replied. She did not have to be at work until Monday, but wanted to do nothing more than lay around her house all weekend.

"Well, it is Friday night and we are in the French Quarter," Greg had a mischievous gleam in his eye. "We should go celebrate our life." Everyone at the table was ready to pound him into dust.

"I think that is a good idea," Nicole forestalled their merciless attack on the clueless member of her group. "We should go do something to celebrate life. It is tradition after all."

"True," Jessie smiled as she remembered the party that had taken place after her grandfather’s funeral.

"Are you sure that’s a good idea?" Laurel was reluctant.

"Yeah it seems kinda inappropriate," Sheryl shared the bassist’s concerns.

"Oh, I don’t think so," Danny sided with Greg. "It seems rather fitting. We should go out and toast one to Margie and then toast the rest to ourselves."

"Alright then," Laurel knew when she was outvoted. Only the critic had agreed with her.

They separated at the stairs. Everyone wanted to change clothing. Funeral clothes were not appropriate attire for a celebration on Bourbon Street. Laurel and Nicole both changed into jeans, though Laurel stayed in the shirt she had been wearing. Nicole was digging through her bag looking for a shirt to wear.

"You ok?"

"Yeah, now that its over. I meant what I said though, I’ll always miss her."

"I know you will, sweetheart," Laurel spoke from experience. She pulled the half dressed photographer into her arms. "It does get better with time, I can promise that."

"Do you?" Nicole looked deeply into her lover’s eyes. "I couldn’t have done this without you."

"Yes you could have," Laurel protested softly. "You are stronger than you think. Though, I am glad I could help. Now lets go get your mind off this and on to other things."


"Drunken debauchery?"

"Sounds good," Nicole was not a big drinker. One or two beers or glasses of wine with dinner were her limit. However, she was willing to watch her friends partake. They were all amusing when under alcoholic influences. Hell, I might even get drunk tonight. I could use it too.

"Then let’s go join the others," Laurel stopped for a moment. "Though you might want to put a shirt on first."

"Yeah, that might be a good idea," Nicole chuckled. "It is rather cool out there."

"That’s not what I was worried about. I don’t want to go to jail beating people up who stare at you," She grinned.

"Would you do that for me?"

"Absofuckinglutly. Now, let’s go."

"Ok," Nicole finished buttoning her shirt before taking the bassist’s arm and allowing herself to be escorted downstairs.

By some strange coincidence, Nicole and Michael had chosen the exact same shade of red to wear. Laurel looked closer and realized that it was the exact same style of shirt as well. The bassist was almost willing to bet that the same manufacturer had made it. Sister and brother grinned when they realized what they had inadvertently done.

"So should I go and change or do you want to be twinkies?" Michael laughed.

"The twin look is in," Danny commented. "Stay like that, we’ll just tell everyone we’re in a cult."

"Now that’s an idea," Jessie clapped her hands together and looked as if she were about to explode with excitement. "Anyone know any spells or anything?"

"Spells would be for a coven, not a cult," Laurel’s voice was firm. "I think you have to wear the same shoes to be in one of those cult things," She dropped the serious demeanor. "And I have no desire to look for comets hiding space ships."

"Me either," Nicole took her lover’s hand. "I’ve no desire to seek the undiscovered country."

"Well, you have boldly gone where no man has gone before," Laurel whispered into her lover’s ears. She loved seeing the tips of Nicole’s ears turn red.


"Yep," Laurel was going to ask something, but Danny caught the blush rising on his friend’s cheeks.

"Something you’d like to share with the rest of the class?" He asked.

"Laurel wanted to know where your wingtips were," Nicole tried to cover.

"Yeah right," He did not buy her tale. "So don’t share, see if we care," He pretended to pout.

"I assure you, you don’t wanna know," Sheryl had been close enough to hear the comments. She had not been bothered by the revelation, in fact she had already assumed as much. She just did not want to bring it to Danny and Greg’s attention. She did not want to witness a fight, and Greg was clueless enough to accidentally start one.

"Ok, if you say so," He took her word for it. "Are we ready to paaaarrrrrtttyyyyyy?" He asked in his work voice.

"Lead the way," Michael bowed in a mock gesture and let Danny lead the group from the courtyard.

Laurel thought the pairing was amusing. There were eight of them, evenly split between men and women. The ironic part was that the women were paired off, and the guys were going stag. The bassist chuckled softly.

"What’s so funny?" Nicole asked.

"Well, we have four dykes who are paired off, one gay man, and three straight but single guys. Think we’ll confuse everyone in the city?"

"I love the way your mind works," Nicole took her lover’s hand. She felt safe enough within the group to indulge herself in a public display of affection.

"Is that all?" A blonde eyebrow was raised in question.

"Oh, no," Nicole gave a rare seductive grin. "There are so many reasons."

"Now you know how I feel," Laurel pushed their way through a group waiting outside of Pat O’Brien’s. "I could not choose just one thing about you."

"Ok, the two of you are about to make me sick," Michael warned. "Can we at least get some drinks before you start that whole mushy love fest thing?"

"If you insist," Laurel grinned at him.

"You’ll understand one day, bro," Nicole commented.

"I hope so," He replied. "Hey, oh fearless leader? When do we stop?"

"Right here?" Danny had led them to a quiet bar.

"Looks promising," Laurel peered inside the haze. It was sparsely crowded with what looked to be locals.

"This’ll work," Sheryl gave the bar her stamp of approval.

The bar was one large room with an enormous mahogany bar running the length of one wall. There were few patrons seated at the bar itself, and barely a dozen sitting at the tables inside the smoky room. A jukebox was on the wall opposite the mahogany structure and quietly gave voice to a modern jazz ballad. It was, in a word, quaint.

The eight of them pulled two tables together and seated themselves around it. A waitress came over to take their drink orders. That had been a pleasant surprise. They had all been planning trips to the bar for drinks. They did manage not to confuse the poor woman with the drink orders. She returned quickly and even provided them with popcorn.

"Interesting," Laurel commented.

"What?" Sheryl asked.

"Food and beverage all for the price of drinks," The bassist picked the cherry from her screwdriver and showed it to the critic. "Desert?" She asked her lover.

"Are you offering you or the fruit?" Danny had heard that comment.

"Both," She grinned at him before catching Nicole’s eye. Slowly, she licked the vodka and orange juice from the fruit and then pulled it off the stem. Nicole’s eyes widened and her mouth went dry. Laurel smirked and raised an eyebrow before taking the stem and tying it into a knot with her tongue. Grinning, she handed the photographer the finished product. Nicole soon found herself in need of another drink. Actually, Sheryl and Jessie did too.

"Wow, how did you do that?" Michael inspected the perfectly formed knot after taking it from his sister.

"I’m multi talented," Laurel grinned. Nicole blushed.

"That you are," The photographer looked down at the glass of ice before her. "I really need another drink."

"Bet I can do that," Michael claimed the stem from another person’s drink. His beer did not come equipped with cherries.

Soon all eight of them were attempting to tie knots in cherry stems. Only three of them succeeded. Laurel, Sheryl and Danny had mastered the art much to the rest of the table’s chagrin. Of course, this contest required many rounds of drinks. The waitress declined to bring a bowl of cherries to the table when Danny had attempted to use his charm on her. Instead, they settled for consuming various fruity beverages with high alcohol contents and garnished with sliced oranges and cherries. The rest of the patrons found their antics amusing.

"I’ll be right back," Nicole was slightly unsteady on her feet but managed to pull herself from her chair. "The ladies’ room beckons."

"Here, I’ll go with you," Jessie had been afraid to venture into uncharted territory alone.

"Me too," Sheryl was relived that someone else had volunteered to go first.

"Think I’ll see what the jukebox has to offer," Danny waited until the women had left before digging into his pocket for change. Greg joined him.

"You know something?" Michael turned to Laurel when the table had cleared of all but him, the bassist and Stan.

"I know lots of things, but what something are you referring to?" Laurel was proud of herself. She had consumed three screwdrivers and had yet to feel the effects.

"She really does love you."

"Are you going to threaten to break my arm if I hurt her?" Laurel laughed. She had taken the threat seriously from the critic, but could not imagine the tall, laid back surfer carrying out such a threat.

"No," He shook his head. He was already wondering if the drinks in New Orleans were stronger than in California. "I’ve heard all about Nicky’s previous relationships, and I’m glad I never got to meet either asshole. However, I am glad I met you. I can see what Nicky sees in you, and I am usually a good judge of character. I can tell you won’t hurt her, though I bet the intensity scares the shit out of you."

"Sometimes," Laurel admitted. Wait a minute…Relationships? She decided to ignore that for the moment. She had not thought her fear obvious, and had almost denied it, but something about Michael’s personality made her want to trust him. He really did seem to love his sister, and that earned him points in the bassist’s opinion.

"Nicky has always been intense," Stan offered his voice to the conversation. "She’s had more than her share of heartbreak to cause that. She’ll hold on to you, but don’t let that scare you."

"I can only promise that I will try not to," Laurel was apprehensive of making such promises. Her experience with the photographer had proven to be intense, but Nicole did not come across as clingy or needy. Laurel would not be in New Orleans if that were the case.

"What are they doing in there?" Greg asked when him and Danny returned to the table. A blues standard started softly emanating from the speakers around the bar.

"I have no idea. Laurel, you’re a girl," Stan stated the obvious. "What do you girls do in the bathroom?"

"Mostly in public restrooms we pee very carefully without touching anything we don’t have to," Laurel told him.

"No, I mean what’s with the group thing?" He persisted. The bassist soon realized that all four men leaned closer to hear the answer.

"Honestly, I have no idea. I don’t understand women anymore than you do," She shrugged. "I think they go to gossip or to protect one another from prying eyes, but if that’s not the case then I don’t have a clue."

"Damn, I was hoping you could answer that," Michael slammed his drink on the table harder than he intended. "My last girlfriend was always going to the bathroom with her best friend. I was starting to wonder what they were doing in there since it never looked as if they added more makeup or anything. Are there chairs and a TV in there?"

"Not usually," Laurel laughed.

"What’s so funny?" Nicole returned to her seat next to her brother and across from her lover.

"Michael wanted to know if ya’ll were in the bathroom watching TV," Stan answered. He was still chuckling to himself over the image.

"No, this is a great bar, but the bathroom needs a lot of work," Jessie complained. "It’s small and filthy and there’s two stalls and neither have a door. We had to take turns keeping lookout."

"There are no doors?" Laurel asked. She decided to accompany her lover the next time she had to use the facilities. Since Nicole had switched to beer, it would not be long.

"Nope, no door," Nicole nodded her head. She was really starting to feel the effects of the alcohol.

"Let me ask you this then," Michael’s expression went serious and he turned to his sister as if he were about to ask the meaning of life. "Why do girls go to the bathroom in groups?"

"To talk about the people they’re with and to guard the door," Nicole answered. She suddenly giggled at the look on his face.

"That’s it?" He was astounded. "I mean surely there must be sacred bathroom rites or something."

"Yeah, Mickey, we all gather in the bathroom, strip down to our bras and underwear, chant to various goddesses of desire and sacrifice rolls of toilet paper," Jessica managed to keep a grin from her face as she answered him.

"Now that I’d believe," Greg gestured grandly. Most of his drink ended up on the table. "I once dated this chick that so could have fit into that category."

"Do you call them all chicks?" Laurel looked at him. "No wonder you’re still single," Danny had been attempting to balance his chair on two legs. At the bassist’s comments, he lost his grip on the table and fell to the floor laughing.

"That was uncalled for," His wounded look was ruined by the inebriated smile. "Hey, aren’t you supposed to be on crutches anyway?"

"It wasn’t broken."

"And you got your medical degree when?" Sheryl asked.

"Oh, lord, don’t get her started," Nicole pleaded with her oldest friend. It was too late.

"I know what a broken bone feels like," Laurel protested.

"And what does it feel like?" Greg asked as he leaned in closer.

"Wanna find out?"

"No, that’s ok, thanks for asking." Greg quickly turned the conversation to something else and returned to his previous position. "So, what shall we do now?"

"What’s wrong with this?" Sheryl asked. She had been holding Jessie’s hand under the table and had no desire to move.

"There’s no girls here," He pouted. "We need to go pick up some chicks."

"Now that is a good idea," Michael agreed whole-heartedly.

"I’d say amen," Stan agreed.

"Well, I already have mine," Laurel began stroking Nicole’s calf with her foot. "We’ll let you go on your search if you want."

"Yeah, I have no desire to move," Nicole commented as Laurel’s foot began to work its way up her leg. Once again she finished her drink quickly due to a very dry mouth.

"Since I’m not into chicks, women or barn yard animals, I think I’ll remain here as well," Danny could not raise his eyes to meet Greg’s face.

"Alright then, shall we?" Greg stood and asked his new compatriots.

"Sure, we’ll see ya back at the Warehouse," Michael leaned down and kissed his sister on the cheek. It ruined her mood, but Laurel redoubled her efforts.

"Don’t wait up," Stan called as they left.

"Wonder where they’ll end up?" Danny asked no one in particular.

"A strip club probably," Laurel answered. "Need another beer?" She asked her lover.


"Coming right up," Laurel got up from the table and walked to the bar. Nicole took the opportunity to quickly chew a piece of ice from the bassist’s drink.

"Thanks," Nicole took the offered beer from Laurel’s hand. The bassist ran her finger across the back of the photographer’s hand before letting go and taking her seat.

"Anytime," She smiled until she felt a foot caressing the back of her calf. She raised her eyebrow and received a very sultry smile in return.

"So, what’s next on the conversation list?" Danny was unaware of what was happening underneath the table.

"Oh, I don’t know, pick something," Sheryl commented in a bored tone. Laurel was close enough to see that her hand had been caressing Jessie’s thigh. She knew the bored tone was feigned.

"Well, all we talk about is movies, TV, music and other items of pop culture," Danny was searching his mind for a suitable topic.

"How about the virtues of Mongolia?" Laurel decided to give as good as she was getting and returned her foot to its previous position behind the photographer’s leg.

"Excuse me?" He seemed confused. She had gotten everyone’s attention.

"Well, if you think about it, Mongolia is never mentioned, you never see anyone from there, hear of anyone going there or anything. I’m convinced there’s nothing more than twelve people and two Yeti that live there."

"So you want to go to Mongolia?" Nicole was so amazed she stilled her foot. Laurel took advantage of the lessened distraction and increased her assault.

"Sure, why not," Laurel grinned. She could tell that the photographer had taken her comments seriously. "Actually, no. I would love to travel the world, but I don’t know enough about Mongolia to decide if I would want to go there or not."

"Ah, ok," Nicole felt better. "So where would you like to travel to?"

"Europe. Anywhere." Danny answered.

"England or Norway," Laurel did not hesitate.

"Spain," Jessie had to think a moment before she answered.

"Italy. You?" Sheryl asked the photographer.

"Italy would be nice, but I’d like to see Switzerland. It looks so nice in all the movies." Laurel’s foot had journeyed farther up the photographer’s leg. Nicole’s voice raised half an octave.

"So, how’s the band coming along there SBD?" Sheryl noted Nicole’s sudden vocal inflections and thought it would be fun to continue the conversation for the sake of pure torture.

"We’ve got a few gigs coming up that should be promising," Laurel grinned. She was in no hurry to get back to the Warehouse. She enjoyed teasing her lover too much. "We’re playing a few down on the Coast and a wedding oddly enough for one of the Profs at school."

"No kidding?" Danny was amazed. He had not realized blue gecko was so popular.

"Seriously. It should be fun, though we’ll have to tone it down for the wedding. I don’t think amp diving would be proper etiquette."

"No, I don’t think it would be," Jessie gave a strained smile. She was more than ready to return to the Warehouse. "Are you playing around Thanksgiving?"

"Yeah, actually one of our gigs is the night before. I just don’t remember where."

"Well, let Sheryl know and I’ll try to attend. I should be down that Tuesday. I already have the plane ticket and everything."

"Cool," Laurel grinned. "The more the merrier."

"Well, I’m getting kinda tired," Nicole stretched and gave a huge false yawn. She did not miss the grateful look her cousin tossed her. "We should head back since we all have to return to reality tomorrow."

"Now, Nicole, I was just starting to have fun," Laurel’s grin turned evil.

"I think Nicky’s right," Jessie followed her cousin’s lead. "I at least have a long day of airline travel and airport food to look forward to tomorrow."

"Yeah, they’re probably right," Danny reluctantly agreed. He was not looking forward to returning solo.

One by one, they made attempts at standing with various degrees of success. Nicole and Jessica needed a little assistance. Laurel and Sheryl were happy to provide it. Danny had consumed less than anyone else in the little group, so he was more than able to lead them back to the Warehouse. They only encountered one problem and it was from an outside source.

"Wow, looks like big man over there has too much ta handle," A scruffy looking man stepped from the shadows. "C’mon girls, I can give ya what he cain’t."

They continued to walk past the man, who had been joined by several of other disreputable looking types. The catcalls they received were enough to make even the most cynical and worldly wise of them cringe. Laurel almost pitied the men.

"Whatcha say? C’mon honey, you there, the tall one. Those breast real? C’mon I’ll make it a night you’ll never forget. Bet I’m better than that guy you’re with."

"Then how come he has four of us and you only have a hard on?" Laurel called back. She had been unable to resist the temptation. The man’s companions erupted with laughter. Fortunately, he seemed either too drunk or too lazy to follow up on his vocal threats. The group was able to make it back to the Warehouse with out any thing else happening.

"Well, guess we’ll see you in the morning," Jessie clung to Sheryl’s hand. "I think I have time for breakfast before I have to leave. Wanna meet?"

"Yeah," Nicole was still not completely sober. "That’d be great." Each word was over pronounced.

"We can follow one another back," Danny offered. Sheryl had been the only one to drive down alone.

"Sounds good," Sheryl put her arm around Jessie’s waist and led the young woman to the elevator. Jessie was not all that sober either. "Can someone get this thing working? I never can."

"That’s a relief," Laurel laughed as she helped her lover into the elevator. "I thought it just hated me."

"Naw, you just gotta touch it right," Nicole slurred as she tried to turn the elevator on without closing the gate first.

"Whoa, there Hotshot," Laurel gently pulled the photographer’s hands from the controls. "We’re forgetting a few important details. Can Danny ride this with us? Should we let Mozart back upstairs? And most important, don’t we need to close the gate first?"

"What was that middle thing?" Nicole’s eyes had gone dark with confusion.

"Never mind Hotshot," Sheryl left Jessie holding up the wall. "Go back to sleep. Laurel, I’ll get the dog if you can squeeze Danny in here and keep them from moving the damn thing."

"Deal," The bassist resisted the urge to salute.

Laurel pulled the unresisting deejay into the elevator and made him stand by Jessie. The poor woman was by this time hanging on to the grate surrounding the elevator. Nicole had her forehead resting on the gate, and Laurel had to keep from laughing. She did promise herself to carefully monitor her lover’s alcoholic intake in the future.

"All set?" Sheryl returned with Mozart and edged her way into the elevator. The five of them and the dog made it a bit crowded, but they all fit. "Ok, Hotshot. Fire at will."

"Will? What?" Nicole was fighting the urge to pass out. "Oh, ok, I get it."

She put the old machine into motion and stopped it on the third floor. Danny and Greg had been given use of Margie’s old apartment while Jessie shared hers with Sheryl. Michael had been installed in the top floor. He was the only grandchild that did not have a permanent apartment in the building.

Nicole stopped the elevator and let Danny out before sending the ancient mode of transportation to the fifth floor. There, Laurel opened the gate and let a very nervous dog out of the elevator. She held the gate open for her lover and then closed it behind them. Sheryl had roused Jessie enough so the young woman could take over the controls and guide the elevator up to her floor.

"You know," Nicole used the backs of chairs and other furniture to support her as she searched for the bed. "I’m not too crazy about this world spinning thing," She fell on to the bed face first when she encountered the mattress with her shins.

"As I was once told, if the world stopped spinning, we’d fall off," Laurel climbed into bed and lay beside her lover. "Are you going to be ok?" She was waiting for a repeat of the last time she had seen the photographer intoxicated.

"I think I’ll be ok," It was not a convincing tone.

Laurel decided to go with the flow. She got off the bed and pulled Nicole into a sitting position. The photographer seemed to have no strength and was as pliable as a rag doll. The bassist used skilled but gentle hands and undressed her lover. She left Nicole’s shirt on, but removed her shoes, socks, jeans and bra. Then she positioned the pliant photographer on her back and made sure one foot was touching the floor.

"There, leave your foot on the floor, it’ll help the world stop spinning."

"M’okay," Nicole was already half asleep.

Laurel changed into her pajamas and then turned off the lights in the apartment. By the time she crawled into bed and took an unresisting Nicole into her arms, the photographer was snoring lightly. Settling herself into a comfortable position, Laurel lay back and let the dreaming world overtake her.

part 20

Return to Main Page