For disclaimers see part 1
Shana raised her eyes from the rose on Peter's grave and looked around the cemetery. It was small with no more than a hundred graves or so, she estimated. She got up and stretched, then hopped a bit on the spot to get the blood circulating in her very cold legs. She decided to take a short walk around the silent cemetery to warm herself a bit. She could have gotten into her car to warm up, but she wasn't ready to leave the comfort of the stillness around her and her quiet conversation with Peter yet.
"You know," she kept on talking while walking along the hardly visible path between two rows of graves, "just once I'd love to know what it feels like to have that internal heat thing that you and Anne have." But then again, if Anne was here I could just wrap myself up in her arms and be warm. She hugged herself in an effort to generate more body heat. Anne could probably walk around in a shirt and not be cold. "I don't know how you do it," she said as much to Anne as to Peter.
"When I arrived at your place that afternoon for your birthday party I was so totally confused," she told Peter whose grave now lay a good 100 feet behind her. "Today I know I just should have talked to Anne about everything, but then I was God, I was so stupid then, wasn't I?"
She turned around to the grave she was talking to. "Anne would have known a way out. But I couldn't think straight at that time, and I just couldn't let her risk her career for our friendship." And that would have been exactly what she would have done I know it. I even knew it then. She buried her head in her hands in a vain attempt to block out the voice in the back of her head that was letting her know in no uncertain words which mistakes she made in the past. It wasn't easy, though. Her career was never as important to her as you were. If you had known her as well as you thought you did, you would have realized that then.
"It's true, you know," she continued as if her silent listener was privy to the thoughts in her head, "after you died we all realized that what had made her career so important to her was the fact that her success helped at least a little to keep your father off your back. She always wanted for you to be happy. She loved you so much, Petey, did you know that? She'll never forgive herself for not being there for you " And I don't know if she ever forgave me for being the reason for that.
Shana took a ragged breath and wiped away the tears that had started running down her cheeks without her really noticing. She didn't remember everything about the birthday party as her mind was on a complete overload that night, but what she remembered was painful and wonderful, and blue. Blue eyes that turned to steel because of her.
March 15, 1994
She arrived at the Patakis' house in the late afternoon without having a clue how she got there. She was confused, emotionally exhausted, and had the strange feeling of standing beside herself, watching some bad movie.
She took a deep breath, trying to concentrate on her surroundings and why she was there in the first place, and doing everything she could not to fall apart on the doorstep. She raised her hand to knock, but before her knuckles even touched the wooden door, it was opened from the inside by a broadly smiling Irene Patakis.
"Hello, sweetie," she greeted her daughter's best friend, "it's so good to see you. Petey's been looking forward to this day for weeks! He'll be so happy you could come." She wrapped the younger woman into a fierce hug.
Shana felt the need to resist that embrace. It reminded her too much of what was lacking in her relationship with her own parents. Love. Safety. Words that sprang into her mind while her body decided that it needed the comfortable feeling of arms around it, and relaxed into the body of the older woman.
Shana's hesitation might have lasted only the fraction of a second, but it was long enough for Irene to notice that something was wrong with the woman she considered a second daughter. She released her from the hug but kept her loosely in the circle of her arms. She bent her head to look into the green eyes she knew almost as well as Anne's and Peter's.
Shana avoided the eye contact for as long as possible, but couldn't withstand the gentle pressure of the look. When she finally met the older woman's eyes she saw worry and concern clearly written all over the gray eyes. Shana looked away again, fearing Irene's ability to search her soul with just a look.
"What's wrong, little one?" Irene asked in that quiet tone of hers that Shana knew to be reserved for emergency situations. "Has something happened to you? Are your parents alright?" Irene didn't like Shana's parents one bit, but she knew that the strict couple was very important to Shana, and that she depended on her family a lot.
Shana's body stiffened slightly at the last question and Irene decided to push a little more. "Did you fight with them? Did they upset you somehow? Did they say something about Anne?" Irene knew these last questions were too much too soon when the younger woman withdrew completely from the half hug they were still in.
Shana was determined not to let Irene see the turmoil and misery she was in, but considering the older woman's questions right now, was failing miserably. She decided she needed to get out of there. She pulled back from Anne's mother and looked up at her as calmly as she could manage.
"I'm fine, Mom," she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. "It's nothing. My parents were just a little grumpy today and they insisted that I return to the hotel tonight." She shrugged, feigning indifference to her parents erratic behavior. "You know how that is," she continued with a lightness she didn't feel, "I'll just have to go back a little earlier tonight to clear the air with them." And I might never come back here. No, I can't do that. No no no. It's just for a little while until everyone has calmed down. I need to see Anne now.
She pulled herself together and managed a grin for Irene who still looked at her with a very concerned expression on her face. I didn't fool her one bit. Why can't my parents be like her just once in a while. She put a way her wistful thoughts for the moment, and said grinningly, "You know how much I love talking to you, Mom, but " She trailed off, knowing Anne's mother could finish the sentence for her.
"I think I saw Anne heading towards the kitchen a couple of minutes ago. I bet she's still in there." Irene chuckled. "Go after her, go! I know when I'm not wanted," she pretended a pout, deciding to let the subject of what was bothering Shana go for now. She would just ask her again later.
"Oh, Mom!" Shana exclaimed, "You know I love you!" She kissed her second mother on the cheek and turned to search for the balm her soul needed right now. Knowing full well that this meeting promised more hurt than happiness for either of them.
The hallway to the kitchen was much too short for Shana's taste. She fervently wished it would stretch on for at least another couple of hundred feet or more. She walked as slowly as she could without actually taking three steps backwards for every step forward.
The closer she got to the kitchen door the more her insides twisted and knotted themselves in intricate little designs that did little to make her feel better. And all the while she could practically feel the curious and concerned eyes of Irene on her back, but when she turned around halfway down the hall, Anne's mother had already left the hall. Why am I so nervous? This is just Anne. Get a grip, Shay, and get your butt moving into that kitchen!
With this new sense of determination, Shana took the final steps to the kitchen and opened the door. And felt every single ounce of oxygen leave her body. God, she's gorgeous! I never thought she'd dress up like that for her brother. I wonder if she knows how beautiful she is
Anne hadn't noticed her yet, so Shana used this unexpected opportunity to take a good, long look at her friend. The dark haired woman was standing at the kitchen counter with her back to the door. Her blue jeans neatly outlined her long muscular legs, while the white shirt accentuated the strong lines of her back. The black hair fell gently just to the shoulder, and was almost glowing, reflecting the late afternoon light that fell into the kitchen through the large windows.
The sound of the coffee pot banging against a huge mug finally brought the blonde woman back to reality. How long was I standing here just watching her? Why does it seem too short a time? I could just look at her forever. Jesus, what am I doing here? I can't say goodbye to her, I just can't.
Anne slowly lifted the coffee mug to her mouth with both hands, still unaware of Shana's presence. Shortly before she took her first sip of what Shana knew was life's elixir to her tall friend, Anne stopped her movement, a small delighted smile gracing her features. "You drink way too much coffee, Anne", Shana heard her friend say in a perfect imitation of what she herself had told Anne a thousand times."
The blonde knew that this was her cue. With a grin she said, "You are so right," and then took off from the door at full speed, trusting her Anne to catch her. The taller woman barely had time to put down the cup and brace herself before Shana jumped into her arms. This feels so good, the blonde woman thought when she wrapped her arms around the dark haired woman's neck. So good.
Anne produced an incoherent sound, and started to twirl the two of them around in the kitchen, finally stopping at the counter where she put down her precious cargo. Then all that Shana could do was look into the bluest eyes she had ever seen and lose herself in them. I know I'll never see eyes like hers again. They're truly a window to her soul. And right now, the windows were wide open for her to see what she had never dared to see before. There's so much feeling in those eyes, and I think it's for me.
She watched as the bright blue of her friend's eyes turned darker with each passing second, taking on a look Shana had never seen in her friend's gaze. She didn't recognize the desire in Anne's eyes, and never knew that her own eyes reflected the same feelings from deep within her.
Then thinking became too hard and feeling took over. Afterwards she was never able to say who moved first, but suddenly her lips were touching the softest lips she had ever tasted. The contact lasted only the fraction of a second, but it was enough for Shana to realize that this was where she wanted to be, and that Anne was who she wanted to be with. Her arms tightened around Anne's neck and one hand started to tangle itself in the black hair. Her legs wound themselves around Anne's waist, pulling the longer body against her.
She dove back in for another kiss, this time deepening the touch, pressing their lips together with an intensity she didn't understand herself. She felt Anne's tongue caressing her lips, gently probing, asking to be allowed inside. With a groan, Shana opened her lips, accepting the offer, tongues softly playing with each other, exploring and conquering a new world.
Shana heard a low growl, not knowing whether it came from her or her tall friend. She responded in kind, just in case. When the need to breathe became too much, she slowly pulled away, reluctantly releasing first a tongue, then the upper lip, and then, at last, the lower lip after giving it a playful tug.
She opened her eyes to look at blue pools of confusion from a very close distance. Their foreheads touched, and Shana realized several things at once. Anne seemed to be in shock or at least completely confused. She doesn't look like she felt the same things I did just now, Shana thought with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She looks like she doesn't even know where she is. Indeed, the taller woman gave a neat impression of a woman who was completely disoriented. She blinked her eyes, then gave a small shake of the head as if to clear her mind or remember something. Uh oh. I think I might have made a huge mistake.
Then Shana noticed the position they were in. She also realized Peter was standing right next to them with a very smug look on his face. Thoroughly embarrassed, she uncrossed her feet, untangled her fingers from the dark hair, and let go of Anne. Then she jumped off the kitchen counter to greet Anne's brother.
The sound of a car in the distance brought the blonde woman back to the present. She shook her head a bit, then grinned at the grave she had been talking to.
"You really enjoyed that little scene in the kitchen," she said, making it a statement, not a question. "I know, I know. If you were still with us, you'd probably tell me now that you always knew your sister and I should be together. You would just tell me to stop all that crap and just tell her how I feel, huh?" She stopped and listened to the car that was slowly driving along the road. Probably more guests for Irene.
"Back then I was very confused, Petey," she continued then. "I knew that Anne was my best friend and that I really, really liked her, but until that moment in the kitchen I had never considered the possibility that I loved her. Like that. That I wanted to be with her, as her lover, not just as her friend. But when I saw her, my mind went blank and I couldn't help myself. I had to taste her and feel her. I stopped thinking for a precious few moments, and even though it was confusing as hell, it was also very nice. It felt right. And I got scared." Oh man, is that an understatement. She remembered the embarrassment at being caught by Peter, and the feeling of dread that had crept up her spine at the thought that her parents' concern was probably not too far off the mark. With that feeling the thoughts of her father's threat had surfaced again, and she knew she couldn't ruin Anne's life. Not now. Especially not now after she realized that she loved her tall friend.
"You see, Petey, it would have ruined her career, her life. I couldn't tell her I loved her, couldn't tell her about father's threat, because she would have insisted on staying right by my side. Now, I will never know what she felt that day in your kitchen. Do you know that we never talked about that kiss? Ever? And knowing her like I do, I'd bet she didn't talk to anyone about it, not even you." Shana's thoughts went back to her memories of the kiss. I knew she was feeling something. I could see it in her eyes, even before our lips met. But I don't know what she felt. She looked so dazed.
"And then, Pete, I made the worst mistake of my life," she said, thinking back to the scene in Anne's bedroom. "When we went upstairs to talk, I was determined to explain the situation and tell Anne I couldn't see her for a while until my parents were over the whole thing with the tabloids and the rumors. You have to realize that I didn't know what she'd think about the whole thing. So I told her about the picture, and her reaction was so strange. I got more nervous by the second, and I just babbled on. I told her that the dance had meant nothing, that we were just good friends, that everything was completely innocent." And after all these years I'm still babbling when I think about that day.
What a stupid idea that was, she mused. Instead of explaining what was going on I ramble on about friendship and innocent dances, and then we end up kissing again. Shana sighed, even after eight years still disgusted with herself.
"You're right, Pete, I should have told her then that I love her, but I had to kiss her and then leave her without a word of explanation. Aarrgh! How stupid was that?" Very, a voice inside her head told her, now you'll never know what could have been. You destroyed whatever feelings there were between the two of you when you came on to her and then ran away.
Shana took a last long look at Peter's grave and silently said goodbye. She felt better now, having explained things to Peter, who had probably never understood why he had never seen his friend again after his birthday party. "I'm sorry, Petey," she said before she turned around to leave, "I didn't know I'd never see you again. I love you, little Petey."
On her way to the exit she thought about the rest of the birthday party. She couldn't remember much, since she was busy fighting her own confusion at the time, but what she could remember was very, very ugly.
She had barely made it out of Anne's room before she had slid down the wall in the hall, crying and sobbing as silently as she could, trying not to draw the attention of either Anne or Irene to her state of mind.
Knowing she couldn't stay there forever, she had pulled herself together as much as she could and had gone down to meet the rest of the family and the guests that had already arrived. She had put on a cheerful mask for Peter's sake, while falling apart inside.
Anne had made her entrance a while later, after all of the other guests had arrived. They had avoided each other most of the evening, both concentrating on the guest of honor instead. Only once had their eyes met, and Shana had never before seen her friend's eyes so cold, and so totally closed to her. The window to Anne's soul had been closed and locked from the inside, leaving only a steely blue gaze that hurt Shana to the core.
For Shana, the evening had held nothing but pain. She had to witness Anne's coldness and indifference to her while she herself had been unable to let go of her feelings. She had grieved for the friend she had lost, and had been scared by the stranger who had taken her place.
The party had ended even worse than it had begun. Pete had been confused by the vibes coming from the two women he had caught heatedly kissing each other in the kitchen only a short while ago. He had asked Shana what had happened, but she had shrugged him off, telling him that nothing was wrong. Apparently, he had asked his sister the same question and had been told to mind his own business by the tall, dark haired stranger that had somehow replaced his adored sister.
George Patakis had picked up on the tension in the room and had connected the bad feelings to his son. He had gotten more irritated and more drunk as the evening went on, and had finally taken his bad mood out on Peter by telling him that he had always been a nobody and that he would never be anybody.
He had finished of his drunken tirade by questioning Peter's parentage, loudly comparing his own dark looks with his son's light hair and fair skin. Anne had tried to talk to her father, but had been unable to calm him down. She and Pete had finally dragged George off to another room in an unsuccessful attempt to salvage the party. Most of the guests had decided to leave as soon as George started insulting his son.
Only Shana, Kevin and Mike had still been there to witness the ugliest scene of all when Pete had run out of the room, followed by George and Anne, and George had began beating Pete, shouting insults at him at the top of his lung. Irene had sat in her chair, obviously shocked into an apathetic silence by her husband's behavior, unable to help her children.
In a combined effort, Anne, Kevin, and Mike had gotten George away from his son. George had turned around and left the house. Shana had gone over to Anne and lightly touched her arm to see how she was doing, only to find herself being shrugged off like a nasty pest. Anne had looked at her with an unreadable expression in her eyes and had followed her father out the door without looking back.
After calming down Irene and Pete, Shana had left as well, not knowing that she would never see Pete or George Patakis again.
With that thought, Shana got into her car, never seeing the tall figure who was watching her from the stand of trees that was the border between the cemetery and Irene Patakis' land.
TBC in part 5
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