Tie Break

by Bonnie


berlinpup@yahoo.de

2002

For disclaimers see Part 1.


Part 2

Chapter 3

March 15, 1994

Anne was nervous. She was at her parents' house, getting ready to celebrate her little brother's 21st birthday, and Shana was expected to arrive any second now for the party. Anne checked herself over. She felt not ready for her and yet, she was more than ready for this moment. Tonight, she would tell her friend that she loved her and wanted to spend the rest of her life with her.

Her eyes fell on a small box on the bedside table, the dark blue velvet reaching out to her, asking her to open it once again. Anne didn't resist and took another long look at the ring inside. You must be totally out of your mind, Anne. You don't even know if she loves you. God, but the vibrations between us are so strong, I can't believe there's nothing there. The brightly sparkling diamond set inside a band of platinum seemed to agree as it reflected the afternoon sun in vivid clarity.

From the moment they had met she had known that Shana was special. Anne had always been quiet and withdrawn, a loner, driven by a father who wanted to turn her into the best female tennis player the world had ever seen. Her father's goal had been the driving force in her life. There had been nothing else - except Peter. Little Pete, her brother, with his blonde locks and hazel eyes. Pete was three years younger than Anne and almost as talented as his older sister. Almost. For her father, that had never been enough. From the day Pete had gotten his first tennis racket his father had pushed him hard, egging him on constantly, trying to get him to beat the older and more naturally talented Anne.

What should have driven a wedge between the siblings only brought them closer. Anne very early began to develop a fierce protective streak where Peter was concerned, and more often than not got into loud arguments with her father about the way he treated his son. She loved her brother dearly, enjoyed his honest naivete. Their father often accused Pete of being stupid and the truth was that the younger sibling often seemed a bit retarded. But George Patakis had never allowed his wife to have her son checked out as long as he hadn't been visibly different from everyone else. Anne hated the abuse their father heaped on Pete and tried to help him wherever she could.

The tennis camps they spent their summers at were a respite from the pressure at home, where Pete always tried to be the number one for his father, but couldn't. The only problem was that George Patakis sent his kids to different camps in an attempt to break their bond. Irene had tried without success to get him to send the two to the same camp every year.

When Shana entered Anne's life she had been like the sun that warms the earth after a heavy winter. Anne had thawed under the blonde's attention and had opened herself fully to her new friend.

At seventeen she had no frame of reference for the feelings Shana's presence evoked in her, - the tingling in her belly, the rubbery feeling in her legs, the whole 'Shana factor'. She was just a friend. Right? Right.

Over the years the feelings had gotten stronger and stronger until Anne finally, one day, opened up to her mother in the desperate need to give voice to her emotions to someone. Her mother had listened attentively and had asked her daughter afterwards what she thought about gay people.

"Ah what?" Anne had asked, quite confused. "What does that have to do with what's going on with me around Shana " Anne had become increasingly hesitant in her question when the answer presented itself to her. "You think that I you mean we Mom, um I mean " she had stuttered before Irene had taken pity on her.

"I don't know what you, or Shana for that matter, are or feel, Anne. Only you can know that. But the feelings you described sound a lot like the feelings I once experienced. And that, my dear, is called love."

Anne had noticed the wistfulness in her mother's voice and the sadness in her eyes. She was 22 and, now that she thought about it, couldn't remember a single loving gesture between her parents. Somehow, that thought not only made her very sad, but also afraid.

"Mom," she had looked at her mother, "do you love Dad?"

Irene had only looked at her, but the answer was clearly readable in her eyes. Before she turned to leave the room, Anne noticed the small tear that escaped her mother's eyes.

The talk with her mother had given Anne a lot to think about. Now she looked at herself and Shana with a different perspective and soon realized that her mother was probably very right about her feelings for her blonde friend. Anne, you've been so blind, haven't you?All those times when she had lost herself in her friend's green eyes with no desire to ever come back up again. All those touches she hadn't been able to stop. Hadn't wanted to stop. The involuntary smile she always felt on her face whenever Shana was near, and the very, very bad feelings she always got when one of the other players was overly friendly to the young blonde. I guess that's jealousy, then, Anne contemplated rationally. God, I'm in love with my best friend

But it had taken Anne another two years of anxiously waiting for a sign that Shana might feel the same way for her before she had realized that she had to tell her friend what was going on with her. If only to explain why I had to keep a little distance. After Anne had recognized her feelings for the younger woman for what they were, the situation had only gotten worse. She had hardly been able to concentrate on her game, let alone anything else. Shana was always on her mind. The blonde, unknowingly, had looked for their previous closeness with touches and smiles, which had always worked with the tall woman before. Now, those innocent touches had driven Anne crazy with desire.

So, today was the day. The big one. I hope I know what I'm doing But the signs had all been there. She had often seen her blonde friend watch her with what looked like a sad smile. For Anne, the sexual tension had risen to an almost unbearable degree. Although, Anne grinned at the thought of the last two years, it has been good for my tennis. All that pent-up energy had to go somewhere

Anne put down the ring box and took another look in the mirror. She was dressed comfortably and casually. It had taken her three hours to get to that point, but now she was satisfied with the way she looked. Dress to impress and try not to look like it The snugly fitting blue jeans perfectly displayed her long legs, while the white button-down shirt allowed just a glimpse of what was hidden beneath. Around her neck she wore a delicate bone carving in the form of a fishhook that Shana had bought for her during a tournament in Auckland years ago. Her shoulder-length black hair fell freely around her face, and her eyes glowed with equal parts nervousness and confidence, turning them a darker shade of blue than usual.

The tall woman sat down on the bed and put on her favorite pair of boots, pulling the jeans back down over them. At last, she put the jewelry box in her jeans pocket, grabbed a black leather blazer, and left her bedroom to await her best friend's arrival downstairs.

*******************

Anne was standing at the kitchen counter, cradling the coffee cup in both hands. She knew exactly what Shana would say if she could see her right now. "You drink way too much coffee, Anne", she said quietly to herself, imitating her small friend.

"You are so right," came a very familiar voice from the doorway. The tall woman barely had time to put down her coffee and brace herself before the impact of a blonde ball of energy jumped at her and pressed her against the counter.

"Unnh," was all Anne could manage in response. She twirled them around the kitchen a couple of times, expressing an exuberant joy that Shana had hardly ever seen before. At long last, they ended up back at the counter, and Anne gently sat down the small blonde on the wooden surface.

She looked up and found herself suddenly eye to eye, nose to nose with the woman she loved. Shana still had her arms around Anne's shoulders and didn't make a move to take them away. For long moments time stood still while they just looked into each other's eyes.

Anne swallowed. Hard.

I'm drowning here, she thought. I can't stop looking at her. I could just move in a bit and I need to talk to her first Oh, Jesus, if we don't move, I'm gonna kiss her. I need to kiss her! I'm helpless against her. Shana, please you have to move away from me this is too soon. Not yet, please! Oh, hell! That was the last halfway coherent thought before she felt herself moving forward, unable to stop the pull of Shana's brilliant green eyes. She wasn't sure if she pushed towards Shana or if the blonde pulled her in.

She never remembered what happened then; the next thing she knew was that she was looking into a pair of very warm and gentle green eyes that contrasted nicely with a blush that had turned the blonde's tanned face even darker. Slowly she realized other little things, like her hands had somehow cupped her friend's backside and pulled her as close as was humanly possible. And that Shana's legs were wound around her waist, her feet hooked together behind the small of her back. And that the blonde's hands were tangled in her hair at her neck. And their foreheads touching. And her little brother standing next to them with a grin that threatened to split his face.

They disentangled their bodies, looking everywhere except at each other. The blonde jumped off the kitchen counter and walked over to Peter to greet him warmly with a hug. "Hello, birthday boy!" she said with a smile, although to Anne's eye the greeting seemed to lack in the enthusiasm Shana usually displayed at seeing Pete.

While her brother and her best friend caught up with each other's lives, Anne leaned on the counter, desperately trying to steady her nerves and legs. Her thoughts turned inward. Whatever happened just here? I can't remember anything. She panicked. Did I kiss her? Did she kiss me back? What did I do? This wasn't what I had planned Oh, God, I've got to talk to her.

"Now!" She realized she had said that out loud when two sets of eyes turned her way.

Embarrassed, she cleared her throat. "Unnh." Goodie, you're a smooth one today, aren't you?

"What's wrong, Sis?" Peter asked with a grin, obviously not very concerned.

"Nothing," Anne smiled. "I'm fine, just thinking." She shrugged, pushing away her embarrassment.

She turned to Shana. "D'you wanna take your bags upstairs?" Please, I need to talk to you.

Shana looked at her for what seemed like hours, then replied. "Yeah, we should go somewhere quiet." She paused. "We need to talk."

"Yeah," was Anne's short reply, before she turned to walk out the door. "Where are your bags?"

It was time for Shana to swallow and clear her throat. "I don't have any bags, Anne. I'm not staying here tonight," she finally said through clenched teeth.

"What?" both siblings shouted at the same time.

"What do you mean you're not staying? It's my birthday party, Shea!" He used his favorite nickname for his sister's best friend, whom he loved like a sister himself. "You promised you'd be here." His face threatened to turn into a full-out pout. For an adult he looked and sounded astoundingly childlike when he pouted, and he was very proud of that. It almost always got him what he wanted, especially from his sister and Shana.

"Don't worry, Petey. I'll stay for your party, just as I promised. I just won't sleep here tonight."

"But you always stay with us when you're in town," Anne quietly stated. "What happened?" Did I go too far before? Whatever I've done, I didn't mean to. It just happened. The tall woman now noticed that her friend looked distressed, more so with every passing minute. She was getting worried about her friend now. Okay, I need to get her upstairs, we need to talk.

Anne gave her brother a sign that made him turn around and leave the room. Then she turned to Shana. "Let's talk, hmm?"

The smaller woman simply nodded and followed her up the stairs.

*******************

Anne opened the door to her bedroom and let Shana walk past her into the room, shivering when Shana's hand casually touched her at the hip. She took a deep breath and followed her smaller friend inside. She closed the door and leaned against it, closing her eyes for a minute and steeling herself for the talk that was to come. Whatever bothered Shana, she was sure, would bother her as well. She could feel it in every single bone. Dread crept up her spine and settled in her temples. She leaned her head back, touching the door, and took another breath before she turned to look at Shana.

Shana had walked over to the window and was staring out into the evening twilight. She flinched when Anne turned on the light. Anne walked over to her friend and looked at her. She could clearly read the anguish in eyes that had turned a muddy green. The taller woman raised both arms to hug the blonde, but then had second thoughts about it. Instead she touched Shana's shoulders lightly.

"What's going on, Shea?" she asked finally in a very quiet voice. "Did something happen?" Downstairs, for instance. Or before.

Silence.

"You're scaring me, little one," Anne said, bending her head to look into Shana's downcast eyes. "You can always talk to me, you know that. I'll always be here for you."

Another long silence filled the room, stretching on until Anne believed Shana had stopped talking to her altogether. Then, "It's complicated, Anne."

"What is complicated?"

In the silence that followed Anne led Shana over to the bed and settled down next to her. The blonde's nearness invaded Anne's senses at once. Maybe that wasn't such a brilliant idea. We should have stayed at the window. Well, too late now. And if I know her as well as I think I do, she'll need a hug very soon, anyway. So She tried to stabilize her racing heart, trying to concentrate only on what Shana wanted to tell her.

The smaller woman looked at the wall closest to them. "Have you read the paper this morning?" she finally asked.

"Yeah, I have." Anne was slightly confused by the question. "Anything special I should have seen?" She couldn't remember anything that seemed important enough to get such a reaction.

"I'm talking about the tabloids, Anne," Shana said quietly.

"You know we don't read that garbage, Shea. There's way too much dirt in it. Mother would have a cow if we brought that stuff here." She tried to make light of the situation. She really had never looked at the tabloids again after quite a lot of stupid and spiteful comments from reporters she had refused to talk to.

"Well," Shana said, looking directly at Anne for the first time, "unfortunately my parents are not that wise."

Her parents, Anne thought. Talk about a minefield. Shana's parents were difficult. Especially where Anne was concerned. While Shana had practically been adopted by Anne's family, the blonde woman's parents had hated Anne from the beginning. Neither of the women had ever found out why. Shana's parents were strict and conservative and always expected their daughter to be on her best behavior. And the blonde woman was almost always with her parents since her mother was her coach and her father was her manager. Being friends with Anne had helped to develop the already present wild streak Shana had. That's probably why they hate me so much. But what do the tabloids and her parents have to do with her staying here? That's when it came to her.

"There was something about me in the papers that your parents didn't like." Again, Shana added silently. "What was it this time?"

"It wasn't something about you," Shana said.

"But?" This is like fishing with my bare hands here. Come on, Shea. I'm bad enough at this as it is.

"It was about us."

"Us?" Anne asked. "As in you and me?"

"Yes, you and me. Together. With a picture of the party last month." Shana had pulled herself together and was speaking with more energy and intonation now. "My parents totally freaked when they saw the picture. Of course they had to read 'the real story behind it' as the Enquirer put it so nicely."

Anne was still trying to remember what had happened at the party that could end up as fodder for the tabloids. Oh no. Nonononono. It couldn't be. There weren't any photographers there, when Oh shit. She remembered the evening now. Everything.

The championship ball after the US Open had turned into quite the party when the officials had left and a handful of players, both male and female, had decided to take the party to a nightclub close by. She and Shana had been among the ones who wanted to keep on partying. They had both been in the final, with Anne beating Shana only after a very long and hard fight. It had been a good match and they were both happy. They were also slightly intoxicated from all the champagne that had been flowing at the ball. Then Kevin had challenged her, dared her that she would not get up and get Shana to dance with her. And she, being the competitive person that she was, had of course bowed before her best friend and had asked her to dance, never even thinking that the blonde might actually say yes. Which she did.

They had walked to the dance floor just when a slow song was starting to play. Anne hadn't known how to survive the nearness of her friend in her short, tight-fitting black dress. They had danced, and she had never felt like that before. It hadn't taken long for Shana to more or less mold her body to that of her tall friend and to put her head on Anne's shoulder. Both her hands were tightly fit around Anne's waist while the taller woman at first had tried to keep a little distance. Then she had looked down and had seen the happy little grin on Shana's face. The blonde had just looked at her and Anne had lost herself in the green eyes again. The sounds around them faded. There was no one there except the two of them. Anne's hand had slowly wandered downward on Shana's back until she was almost, almost, touching the shapely rear of her friend. They had barely noticed when the music had stopped and grinned at each other, wondering why their friends looked at them like that.

"So," Anne said, "I guess it's a picture of us dancing." And I want one of those.

"Yep. A picture of you and me, dancing. With your hand on my butt and my hand," she smiled, "my hand on the hem of your very tight, very short dress."

Oh, yes. I remember that feeling. The memory of the dance had fueled her fantasies several times. I remember that all right. Too well, maybe. Down, girl. This is not the time!

Anne cleared her throat. "And the story that goes with it?"

"As if you couldn't imagine." Shana grinned. She knew Anne knew the tabloids' way of thinking just as well as she did. "The hottest couple in the tennis world, blah blah blah. You and me, lovers, happy ever after, you get the drift."

And what is so wrong with that picture? That's exactly what I want. Anne decided that now was definitely the right moment. The moment she had been waiting for. Tell her, you fool. Now! Before you have the time to chicken out. She turned to face her friend and took Shana's hands into her own, and spoke. Or at least tried to, but she couldn't get past the lump in her throat. Just when she was about to try again, Shana continued to talk.

"And of course Mom and Dad totally freaked out. Their precious daughter, and all the world thinks she's a lesbian! You know what I really, really hate about all this? The dance was totally innocent. Just two good friends in a good mood who were having fun with each other. Nothing happened. I mean, our hands wandered a bit, and you're really nice to touch but ... we're always touching each other all the time anyway and ..."

"Shea," Anne interrupted her gently, "you're babbling." Of course your parents hated that story. Their daughter being a lesbian would destroy that wonderful image. Shana was the ultimate girl next door. Everybody loved her. She was all smiles on the tennis court, and she was the one the audience cheered for when the two of them faced each other in a match. The favorite daughter. The favorite daughter-in-law. As if I couldn't understand that ...

Then Anne's mind began to process the rest of what Shana had said. It was just a dance between good friends. Nothing happened. Totally innocent. We touch all the time ... And while these thoughts filtered through her mind into her body and soul, she felt her heart breaking a little more with each syllable. Of course she doesn't love me. I'm a woman. I'm her best friend. Just a friend. I must have read everything totally wrong. I'm a fool.

Anne felt absolutely lost. She didn't know what to do. She felt the presence of the ring in her pocket like a source of heat, reminding her of the mistake she'd almost made. She got up from the bed and silently walked over to the window, missing the confused look on Shana's face. She gazed out the window unseeingly, trying to come to a decision. I can't tell her ... not now. And I can't not tell her. But when I tell her how I feel she's going to leave. I'll ruin our friendship, I'll lose her forever. I can't let that happen. I need her in my life. I need her. She took a good long breath and asked herself the most important question. But can you live next to her? As just her friend? Another breath and a decision made in the time it took her heart to skip a beat at the thought of the alternative. Yes, I can. I have to. I have to at least try.

With that decision made, she nodded to herself and turned around to once again face Shana, who stood right behind her, so close that they now touched along their whole body length. So close that Anne felt the trembling in her legs and the shivers that chased each other along her body wherever it came into contact with what it craved. Uh oh. I've got to get away from her.

"Anne, what's wrong?" Shana then asked. "I mean, I know I was babbling, but you know that happens with me when I'm nervous ..."

"Tell me," the taller woman said, "why were you nervous?"

Shana looked towards the window. "I didn't know how you would react to the rumor about us. About that picture of us in the tabloids." She paused. "What do you think?"

"Shea, I really," she paused to look into her friend's eyes, trying to convey honesty, but not her deep feelings. "I really enjoyed that dance. Very much." Then she added in a light tone, "and I really want that picture. For my bedroom." Hiding the absolute truth of that statement behind laughter and smiles. It will be all I have.

And then she made the mistake of looking directly at her friend, letting all her feelings show in her eyes before she could stop herself. And saw a spark of recognition in the green eyes looking back at her. Confusion. And ... something else. Heard the small gasp that escaped Shana's lungs. She looked at their hands, which were now holding on to each other. How did that happen? I have absolutely no control over my body when she's near me. Anne didn't know whether to be delighted or disgusted.

She found herself mesmerized by a green-eyed stare that melted her insides. There was a smoldering fire in Shana's eyes that pulled Anne in, just like it had when they had danced. Or downstairs in the kitchen.

If you don't move away from me, Shea, I don't know what I'll do. Anne's hormones were running rampant in her system, telling her to ignore ... everything.

Shana didn't move away. She just stood there, sharing space with Anne, driving her tall friend wild. Does she know what she's doing to me? Anne tried to close her eyes. Then she felt a hand grab her hip, and opened her eyes just in time to see Shana close hers.

And then there was only feeling. Shana's lips on hers, first softly than more demanding. Anne felt herself lose control, shooting downward on a spiral of desire she knew she would never get out of again. The kiss was more than she had ever dreamed it could be, evoking desire, fear, arousal, and giving her a sense of calm that nothing else ever had. Then she opened her mouth to Shana's inquisitive tongue and found out that she hadn't felt anything yet. She responded vigorously and put all her feelings into that kiss. She couldn't stop herself from doing it anyway. She heard and felt a groan and didn't know who it came from. It didn't matter.

Suddenly she was being pushed away, the kiss ending just as surprisingly as it had started. She opened her eyes and looked into her blonde friend's very confused eyes.

"I can't," came Shana's husky whisper. Then she turned around and swiftly walked to the door.

"Shana, wait!" Anne called out on a ragged breath. "Please."

Shana opened the door, and stopped without turning around. "I can't," she said over her shoulder. "I'm sorry." Then she was gone.

Anne walked over to the bed and collapsed on its surface, trying to work out what had just happened. Her mind went on overload and she simply curled herself into a ball and cried. This is going to be one hell of a birthday party, was her last thought before racking sobs drowned out everything else.

TBC in Part 3.


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