Laurel looked back at the car behind them in the rearview mirror. Danny was driving Greg’s car since of the two he was not hung over. Sheryl was in front of them, leading the way. Nicole was idly staring out the window at the pine trees lining the interstate. They had said goodbye to the Warehouse and Stan an hour ago and were almost home. It had been a tearful parting after breakfast, and Laurel was glad they were finally on the road.

"Something up?"

"Not really, I was just thinking how nice it would be to lead a normal existence," The photographer gave her lover a soft smile.

"Normal is boring, but things should even out soon."

"True," She paused for thought. "At least breakfast was nice. I was kinda getting used to having everyone around." They had all gone to a nice French café for breakfast before everyone headed out. Jessica even gave Michael a lift to the airport, and the Mississippians had watched them leave. Stan watched them leave not long after.

"Well, didn’t Michael say that he was looking for a job down here?"

"Yeah, that would be great if he could find one. Though I think he’d miss the surfing and the beaches and stuff."

"Well, Biloxi isn’t far and it has beaches. Though I wouldn’t trust the water to swim there."

"Is that where you grew up?" One town on the Coast was the same to the photographer. She could not tell them apart.

"Nope, a town or two over from there. It’s a small town called Bayview." Laurel smoothly changed lanes.

"Don’t think I’ve ever been there," Nicole was curious to see the town that produced her lover. She believed environments shaped people to some degree.

"You aren’t missing much. Damn is she fast or what?" The white coup in front of them sped up to pass a truck. Laurel had to push down on the accelerator to catch up; she noticed Danny had to do the same.

"Sheryl collects speeding tickets. It’s a wonder she still has a license." Nicole laughed. "She has her first parking ticket framed."

"Really?" Laurel turned her blinker on and prepared to exit onto the highway. They were almost home.

"Yep, she’s strange like that."

They waved goodbye to their little caravan soon after turning onto the highway. Before too long, Laurel was piloting the car into the driveway. Her truck was sitting forlornly on the grass, and everything else looked just like it did when they left it.

"Looks like I need to get the neighbor’s kid to mow the lawn again," Nicole commented as she pulled her bag from the backseat. Mozart had already jumped from the car and was reacquainting himself with his territory.

"Do you have a lawnmower?" Laurel grabbed her bag and tossed it inside her truck.

"Yes, actually I do."

"Then I’ll mow it tomorrow if you want."

"You don’t have to, but since you volunteered," Nicole grinned. "Are you going home?"

"Yeah, just for a few. I should go catch Mandy up on things and make sure Sam’s ok. You know do that whole good roommate thing."

"Ah, ok. Are you coming back later?" Nicole did not want to sound too clingy, but she had gotten used to waking up in the bassist’s arms.

"Sure, I don’t think we have practice tonight. I’ll call if we do," Laurel promised. "Now, come here and give me a proper goodbye."

"You’re incorrigible," Nicole laughed but did as she was asked.

"I’ll see ya later," Laurel promised after she released her lover. She climbed into her truck and departed. Nicole watched until she had turned the block before unlocking the door and heading inside.

"Come on, Mo, lets go find something to do," The big dog ran inside as soon as the door was opened. He missed his house.

That something to do ended up being cleaning the studio. Nicole located all her photography equipment and made sure it was all in working order. She remembered then that she was supposed to have taken pictures of the band for publicity, but nothing ever came of it. Still, she reasoned that they would ask for them to be taken when they were needed.

Her light meter needed batteries, but there were none to spare in the house. Her telephoto lens also needed to be cleaned but she was of course out of cloths to use. Shaking her head at her own procrastination, Nicole sat down to formulate a list of items she required. Since she also needed groceries, it was a long list by the time she was finished.

Fortunately, the surrounding area boasted three Walmarts. All she had to do was chose one and everything she needed could be obtained there. She chose the one closest to her house that also had a grocery store. It was only a ten-minute drive. Southerners were accustomed to driving any distance to get what they wanted or needed, but they still appreciated convenience.

For a Saturday, the place was not overly crowded. Of course, it was not yet lunch time, and most families did their shopping after the morning cartoons. As a result, it was fairly easy to obtain most of the items on her list. Although, she did end up buying more fresh food than frozen dinners. She had the feeling she’d be feeding a certain bassist a lot, and she always preferred to cook for her guests. It was the Southern upbringing at work.

She paid for her purchases and wheeled the cart out to her car. Someone had let his or her cart get a little too close to her car for comfort. Cursing them, she moved it aside and loaded the bags into the backseat since the trunk on this car was not always reliable. Making sure they were positioned so they would not roll off the seat, she took both carts to the return section of the parking area. Just as she was pulling out of the parking space, several more cars entered the lot. She had just missed the afternoon shopping hour.

Once home, Nicole unloaded the translucent blue bags and made sure everything was in its proper place. She was not that anal retentive, but she did like to be able to find things when she needed them. Her lover however seemed to thrive on chaos. That had been made perfectly clear the first time Nicole had looked inside the bassist’s room.

Cleaning the studio led to cleaning the entire house. By the time she was finished, Nicole had amassed several more loads of laundry containing curtains, sheets, blankets, rugs, and any other home furnishing made of cloth. She also finally repaired the back door so it would not squeak, and opened all the windows to let the small wooden house air out. She had just begun to sweep the floors when the phone rang.


"Hey, sweetheart, I do have practice tonight. Still want me to come over afterwards?"

"Yeah, what time would you be finished?" Nicole had been planning a rather involved dinner.

"Around nine I guess. Want me to stop for a movie?"

"Yeah, that would be great. Just don’t eat before you come over," Nicole was almost grateful for the delay. She could have the house fully cleaned, the laundry finished, and dinner ready by the time Laurel made it over.

"Oh, cooking me dinner are you?" She could hear the smile in her lover’s voice.

"Well, I was planning on it."

"Good, I’ll be there promptly at nine then," She sounded eager. "Anything else you want me to bring?"

"A change of clothing and you, that’s all that’s required."

"Alright, see ya then."

"Bye," Nicole hung up the phone and looked around. She still had a lot of work to do before Laurel arrived. "Mo? Wanna go do laundry?" The big dog seemed too comfortable on the couch so Nicole left him there. She gathered all the clothes and other items into her hampers and loaded them into the car before locking the door and heading back into town.

Laurel was glad she had stopped at the video store before practice. As it was, she arrived at Nicole’s house only twelve minutes late. Jenna had insisted on replaying the new song until the bassist was certain she could sing it in her sleep backwards. It would not have been so bad, but Laurel had written the lyrics to this one. Hearing her own words over and over for almost an hour had illustrated all of the song’s flaws for her, though the rest of the band insisted it was well written. She had yet to make up her mind about the song. It was of course, written for Nicole, but Laurel wanted to surprise her lover with it. It was also why she wanted it perfect.

"You are late," Nicole opened the door as Laurel walked up the porch steps.

"I humbly beg your forgiveness, but I was delayed by a situation beyond my control," Laurel leaned against the post and lit a cigarette. She did not smoke in her truck often.

"That’s ok," Nicole claimed the cigarette before Laurel could do more than get it properly lit. "How was practice?"

"It was fine, but Jenna wanted to do the same song over and over until we were all sick of it," Laurel lit another cigarette and dared her lover to claim it. "I did get a movie though," She had swallowed her disgust and chosen a romance instead of an action adventure.

"Good, dinner is almost ready. You can set the table."

"Seems fair. I’ll even do the dishes since you cooked," Laurel was willing to do her share of the labor.

"You don’t have to, but if you really want to," Nicole grinned. She had actually washed all the pots and pans she had used while the food was cooking. It was easier to wash everything shortly after it was used.

"Its fair," Laurel shrugged. "So, what all did you do today?"

"Went grocery shopping and did some laundry. That’s about it," She downplayed her flurry of activity. She wanted to see if the bassist would notice, but she did not want to admit to being at a loss for ideas while Laurel had been occupied elsewhere. "Oops, that’s the food," Nicole tossed her cigarette butt into the ashtray and ran inside to shut off the buzzer.

"So what are we having?" Laurel followed her lover inside. "Wow, the place looks great. Thought all you did was laundry?" She was astounded at the immaculate state of the house. Nicole normally kept her house clean, but this was spotless.

"Well, I did a bit more than laundry," She was pleased the bassist had noticed the state of the house. "We’re having barbecued beef brisket, potatoes au gratin, and snow peas."

"Ah, looks like someone got out their cookbook," Laurel laughed as she pulled the silver ware from the drawer. She easily remembered the proper way to set a table from all the dinners her parents had made her sit through. "Smells wonderful," She snuck behind Nicole who was slicing the meat in to strips and put her arms around her. "Thanks."

"For what?"

"Well I know you wouldn’t go through this much trouble to feed yourself," She laughed. "But thanks for feeding me too."

"Thanks for being here," She turned to face her lover. "I just hope its good."

"I’m sure it will be. Need any help?"

"Yeah, can you set that on the table?" Nicole had cut the recipe in half and still had enough brisket to feed everyone she knew and liked.

"Sure," Laurel lifted the heavy plate with ease. Shouldering a solid wooden bass on stage for two hours three nights a week had given her plenty of upper body strength.

"We’ll be eating leftovers for days," Nicole grimaced at the amount of food on her little table.

"Wow, this is good," Laurel had at least waited until she had swallowed before commenting. She seldom used her manners, but felt they were required. The photographer had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to prepare the meal. "It’ll be good tomorrow too," She said to ease her lover’s concerns about leftovers.

"This is good," Nicole had finally tasted her creation. She had changed the recipe and added a more Cajun twist to it.

They finished the meal with delight. Neither of them were large eaters, but the brisket was so good they went back for seconds. The photographer had made the entrée from scratch, but she had used boxed and canned goods for the rest. Laurel did not care; the thought was more than enough to please her.

"Hey," Laurel pulled her lover to her as they both stood away from the table. "I’ll clean up in here if you want to go relax a bit. It doesn’t look as if you’ve done much of that today."

"True, but it seemed a good day to get things done," Nicole excused her frenzied cleaning spree.

"And you’ll be starting a new job on Monday," Laurel grinned. "I know. Mandy was the same way when she took over the candle store in the mall. She’s the manager there you know."

"I knew she worked there, but I didn’t know she was the manager," The photographer tried to start straightening the table.

"Now, Hotshot, I said I’d take care of this. Go spend some quality time with your baby. He looks lonely," Laurel softly kissed her lover’s cheek and then pushed her through the curtain separating the kitchen from the living room.

"Seeing as I have no choice in the matter," Nicole pretended to grumble as she walked into the living room. She could hear her lover’s laugh through the curtain.

Laurel was accustomed to cleaning kitchens after someone else cooked. Her roommates did not allow her to prepare food, so she took her turn washing dishes and all the rest of the after meal chores. She could not blame Mandy and BJ. They all wanted to live food poisoning free.

She let the soiled dishes soak as she put the leftovers in the fridge and the water heat up to an adequate temperature. She added a lot of soap and made short work of washing the plates, silverware, serving trays and glasses. She even took the time to wash the stove and the table before calling it quits. Aside from the pile of dishes drying on the rack, no one would be able to tell that a meal had just been consumed.

Finished with her self-imposed chore, she wandered into the living room to find it empty. She could see her lover’s silhouette through the window in the door. Nicole was leaning against a post watching the street as Mozart lay contentedly near her on the porch. They had each slipped him some of their food during dinner.

"Whatcha thinkin’?"

"Nothing really," She turned to face the bassist. "Finished already?" Nicole hated doing dishes so much that it always seemed to take her longer than anyone else.

"Yeah, I live with two others that won’t let me cook," Laurel said by way of explanation. "Ready for the movie?"

"Not yet," She took a seat on the swing and then patted the section by her.

"Cool, we can sit out here and give your neighbors an anatomy lesson," The bassist was only half joking.

"Well, that’s not exactly what I had in mind," Nicole laughed as she laid her head on Laurel’s shoulder. "Now this is more like it."

"Yeah it is," Laurel agreed. She managed to light two cigarettes without causing either of them bodily injury and handed one to her lover. "All that is missing is water."

"You Coasties."


By the time they were ready to move inside, all thoughts of the movie had been forgotten. What started as a simple display of affection had taken its course to a more heated exchange of kisses. While Laurel had no qualms performing such acts in public, she had of course done so before, Nicole was leery of getting caught in the act. As a result, the photographer soon found herself being half carried to the bedroom.

"Anxious?" She teased as Laurel hastily kicked off her boots and socks.

"For you? Yes," The bassist assisted her lover in undressing. It was something they both found incredibly stimulating. "You excite me like no one else ever has."

"It’s the same here," Nicole was almost speechless with desire.

"Good," Laurel was serious. She was very territorial and competitive. While she knew she wasn’t the first that did not stop her from wanting to be the best.

"Very," Nicole was rapidly losing track of the conversation as Laurel gently pushed her back onto the bed.

"A complete goddess of desire," Laurel whispered reverently as she slid Nicole’s jeans down long legs.

"Only to you," Nicole whispered back. Only Laurel had made her feel sexy, loved and wanted.

"Then lucky me," She stopped any protests with a kiss that soon led to something much more enjoyable than conversation.

Mozart guarded the door as Nicole brushed the heavens twice. He covered his ears with his paws as he felt more than heard her voice rise in octaves and scream out Laurel’s name. As soon as he heard Laurel’s voice call out Nicole’s, the big dog knew that he could soon join them on the bed. It was not long before they were both breathing softly. Taking his cue, he hoisted himself onto the bed and curled up at their feet.

Nicole woke up to the obnoxious buzzing of a lawn mower. Laurel was not in bed, so the photographer easily deduced who was behind the sounds of early morning yard work. She pulled her robe on and looked out the window to make sure. She saw her lover easily pushing the old lawnmower across the front yard. Laurel was dressed in jeans, a golf shirt, a jacket and a baseball cap. The bassist was clapping her hands on the handle in rhythm to the tape she was listening to as she mowed the yard. The baseball cap kept the headphones held firmly to her ears.

Smiling at the sight, Nicole went in the kitchen to find food to make for breakfast. She was surprised at how clean her kitchen was, but she was pleased. Laurel had made sure that it was spotless. Nicole appreciated the effort.

The photographer quickly located the eggs in the refrigerator and went ahead and pulled the can of biscuits out as well. She remembered how much her lover liked them covered in honey. Deciding that scrambled eggs and bacon sounded like a good meal for a Sunday morning, Nicole pulled out the appropriate pans. Before too long, she had the bacon sizzling, the eggs seasoned and broken enough to scramble, and the biscuits in the oven.

"Hey, breakfast?" Laurel came into the kitchen. "Do you have a gas can?"

"Yep, this is what’s generally known as the morning meal," Nicole separated the eggs onto two plates. "There should be a gas can in the shed in back."

"Good cause the mower is out of gas."

"Worry about that after you eat," Nicole sat both plates on the table. "But go wash up first." She kissed her lover before pushing her toward the spare room.

"Yes ma’am," The bassist grinned and went to the bathroom to do as she had been asked.

While she was waiting on her lover to return, Nicole got the jelly from the refrigerator and the honey from the cabinet. Mozart padded into the kitchen and laid his head in his dish. He was ready for breakfast too.

"You’re spoiling me you know," Laurel had scrubbed all the dirt from her hands and face. Part of the front yard was more dirt than grass and the lawnmower had showered her in the dust it created.

"Not really," Nicole smiled fondly at her lover as the bassist joined her at the table. "So, what are your plans for Halloween?"

"We usually have a quiet, family dinner and then pass out candy. Why?"

"Well, Sheryl’s birthday is Halloween, and we always have a party. Since it’s a weekday this year, the party is the Saturday before and then Halloween night we always kidnap her and take her out to dinner or somewhere. Last year it was to Mobile and a strip club."

"Was that your idea?"

"Nope, it was Greg’s. Everyone but Danny enjoyed it though. Well, he did too seeing how he got up and pole danced with one of the strippers." Nicole laughed at the memory.

"You mean he got a lap dance?"

"No, he literally waltzed her around the stage and then gyrated against the pole. I swear I thought we were going to have to bail him out of jail."

"I can see why," It was not difficult to find the situation amusing. Laurel could easily picture the tall, blond deejay gyrating on stage and doing so completely out of rhythm.

"Maybe we should invite Aaron to the party," Nicole had almost forgotten about the broadcast major’s interest in her friend.

"I can do that. So what should I get the critic who has everything?"

"I have no idea. We were all thinking of chipping in and buying her a DVD player and a couple movies for it."

"That sounds promising. I can contribute," She was glad it was so easy. She hated buying presents for people. "I can be at the party, but I might be a little late for the kidnapping. Is that something you do for everyone’s birthday?"

"Yes actually it is," Nicole almost asked the bassist when her birthday was, but thought against it. The photographer could always find Mandy at work and ask her.

"Interesting tradition," Laurel used the last of her biscuit to clean her plate. "Guess I better finish the lawn before the game starts. You were going to watch it weren’t you?"

"I hadn’t thought about it, but we could if you want to," Nicole hid her inward groan. She hated sports. "You can explain the sport to me."

"I can do that. Want me to clean up?"

"No, I’ll get it since you’re being so kind, mowing my lawn and all," Nicole got up and began cleaning off the table.

"Ok, I’ll be back in time for kick off," Laurel called as she headed back outside.

By the time Nicole had cleaned the kitchen, she heard the lawnmower start again. Laurel had apparently located the gas can. Having nothing else to do, she took a shower and then began organizing her camera equipment. The lenses were easy to locate, but a suitable bag was not.

The large camera bag had been her father’s once. It was well made, but showed signs of wear. Not wanting to damage it farther, Nicole managed to find one hidden in the studio’s closet. This one had been a gift from Danny several years ago. It had been a graduation present when they had finally received their high school diplomas. She could not remember what she had gotten him, but she still appreciated the camera bag. He had even had her initials embroidered near the latch. It would convey the image of a professional photographer well.

After flipping through several local church services on the TV, Nicole decided to use her stereo system. She put on a CD to drown out the sounds of the lawn mower and waited for Laurel to finish the yard. She was sleeping peacefully when her lover eased the door open.

"Hey, sleeping beauty, wake up," Laurel had let the photographer sleep while she had taken a shower.

"Does that make you my prince?" Nicole asked as she sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"Do I get a sword?" Laurel eased onto the couch behind her lover and pulled her close.

"Well, it might be kinda dangerous giving you edged weapons, but if you really want one," She teased.

"Me dangerous? Never," The bassist pretended to be shocked. "But I’d need a sword to defend you properly."

"Didn’t you want to watch the game?" Nicole used the remote to turn on the TV and turn off the stereo. "Keep that up and we won’t make it to half time," She said as Laurel began nibbling her ear.

"True, but this team doesn’t get interesting until after half time anyway," Laurel repositioned them so that they were laying facing one another. "And you are more interesting than a football game. Now, about that sword…"

"Yes?" Lurid thoughts were running through both their minds.

"Maybe I should invest in one for this Halloween party. It is costume isn’t it?"

"Yes, it is," Nicole could not keep her mind on the conversation. Strong hands were unbuttoning her shirt while the bassist continued to nibble a convenient ear.

"Guess this means we need costumes," Laurel continued the conversation as she pushed Nicole’s shirt out of the way.

"Yeah, we do. Oh god," She pulled the bassist closer. "I can’t think when you do that."

"Want me to stop?" Laurel stilled her hand, but left it cupping the photographer’s breast.

"No, just don’t talk," She illustrated the point by claiming her lover’s lips in a kiss.

"Oh, yeah, a sword would be nice," Laurel murmured as she slid her hand down past Nicole’s waistband. The jeans were snug, and she had to retrace her movements and unzip them first. "Don’t you agree?" She asked as her hand finally encountered what it had been seeking.

"Yesss," It was a hiss more than a word as nimble fingers began creating a very pleasant friction. Nicole was not sure what she was agreeing to, but the attention the bassist gave to an aching part of her anatomy made the photographer willing to agree to almost anything. "God, you are good."

"Thanks," Laurel grinned confidently as she watched Nicole’s breathing return to normal. "Hey look, we scored."

"I’ll say."

"I meant the team, goofy," She grinned and kissed her lover.

"Were you watching that the entire time?" Nicole was astounded that Laurel could watch the game and make love to her at the same time.

"I can multitask with the best of them."

"Well, let’s see if I can direct your attention to something else."

"Sex and football. It’s a great day in the neighborhood," Laurel managed to comment before Nicole proceeded in driving all thought from her head.

part 21

Return to Main Page