Disclaimer: The characters are fictional and are mine, though as an uber they might remind you of others. But they aren’t them.
Violence: Not in this chapter.
Subtext: This story depicts a loving relationship between consenting adult women. If you are underage or this type story is illegal where you live, please don’t read it.
For She of the Overwhelming smile, as always lit gently with humor.
It was a pissant of a day! Had been since she’d first awakened to the loud ringing of the phone that turned out to be a recorded advertisement regarding low-interest credit cards. “Don’t hang up,” the cheerful recorded voice had said, “we have exciting news regarding low-interest credit cards.” Of course, Lonnie had immediately slammed the phone down knowing she would not be able to go back to sleep. She didn’t want any more low interest credit cards. She wanted to sleep in on her day off.
Now the weather was all too happy to continue her string of minor calamities. To prove it, the rain, which had been gently misting all morning, suddenly began to pour, accompanied by ominous dark clouds and a chilly, bracing wind.
“Well, buzzard wings and gizzards!” the tall brunette grumbled increasing her long-legged gait to a jog. She hugged the city buildings she was moving past in this outskirt of the true city center but few had overhangs of any kind for protection. She crossed to a tree-lined parkway a block wide and many blocks long and her hiking boots held firmly to the wet, slippery footing on the pathways. Even falling through the trees, the surging rain had soaked her black silk shirt in seconds, plastering it to her body, displaying erect nipples from the sudden cold and leaving little to anyone’s imagination. She edged her sack of purchases up to bounce before her chest as she ran.
“Great! Wet tee-shirt day at the good ole boys’ dream saloon,” she growled. She crossed onto the cement sidewalk away from the park by more businesses then saw a young man leering out at her from a store doorway. “Geez, get a life!”
Of course she’d left her leather jacket in the car, knowing she always got too warm inside stores. She hadn’t wanted to carry it while she shopped and it had only been misting when she’d parked. “Dumb dumb and dumber dumb,” she admonished herself grumpily as the deluge pelted her in the face.
Increasing her pace to a rapid jog, she moved out by the street parking meters, clasping her bouncing paper bag to her bosom and wondering just how far it was that she’d left her car anyway. She knew it wasn’t far from the main post office near the bridge.
She glanced around her. This area had changed a lot in the last few years. Studio housing now, no more bums, small cafes, more artsy, she decided as she sped by. Water splayed out with each footfall. She considered stepping into one of the doorways to wait out the downpour, when she spotted the latte shop midway down the street. “Thank heavens! Coffee!”
She felt the water running through her long black hair and saw it drip off her bangs, so she lifted the paper bag of books she’d just purchased over her head. She unsnapped her fanny pack and modestly held it with the other hand in front of her wet bosom as she made a wild dash for the door of the shop, its straps bouncing like branches in the wind.
Finally reaching the shop and stepping inside, she was compelled to stand upright and blink at the overwhelmingly heavy scent of wet clothes and wet people mixed with the scent of strong coffee. The odor slapped her in the face, making her take an extra breath as she stood, crinkling her nose. The place was packed with soaking wet customers.
Where’d they all come from? she wondered. This didn’t use to be an area of heavy foot traffic. But the bus depot had moved nearby now and with the urban renewal changes.. she decided everyone on the street came here to get out of the rain. The ordering line in the small shop reached snakelike from the far wall, through the limited seating area to where she was at the door.
“Terrific! A roomful of wet people,” Lonnie grumbled to herself, slicking back her long, black wet hair to behind her ears. She tried not to breathe in the heavy fragrance from the almost steaming bodies as she moved behind the next person in line. “Humans have nothing on dogs.”
The pregnant woman in front of her glanced back at her and smiled then put her attention to the front of the line again.
The tall brunette shook the water off her paper bag. There was always something so satisfying about shopping at the huge bookstore. She could spend days there. But books were always so heavy. Her newly purchased books and magazines shifted in the bag as she wadded the top for a better hold of the heavy object with one hand as she began to unzip her fanny pack to withdraw her coffee money, still trying to modestly cover her soaked chest with both items as she did so.
Suddenly the wet paper bag gave way at the bottom, plunging her new books and magazines out onto the wet tiled floor like a bomb. SPLAT! Her books and magazines shot out in all directions over the thoroughly trampled, dirty wet floor. Those who weren’t looking before, did now.
“Aw, cripe!” she bent down and began to pick up her various purchases. The lady in front turned to help, but the woman was dramatically pregnant and most likely hadn’t seen her shoes in months and was in no position to try and reach for books on the wet floor now.
“I got it. Thanks anyway,” the brunette stopped the woman’s selfless offer of help. Her spy magazine brought a craned neck from the fellow in front of the pregnant woman, and he reached to help her pick it up.
“Thanks,” she muttered, wiping the dirty water off it onto one thigh of her black jeans before adding the now wet magazine to her stack. He glanced at the magazine and waggled his brows. She was glad he approved but she was not in the mood for any stupid flirtation. At least she knew he wasn’t waggling his brows at her nipples, because she had them covered with the items she was gathering and with the arm she had placed before them to surreptitiously cover herself. She ignored him and continued stacking items.
She twisted to the side to get her computer and archaeology magazines and felt the water from her hair run down the back of her neck in a stream to her collar. She gritted her teeth as it continued down her back. At that moment she had an overwhelming desire to yell “FUCK!” at the top of her lungs, knowing that word alone would offend nearly everyone and she, at the moment, felt more than offended herself. Why shouldn’t everyone else?
But she was not the type to make a noticeable fuss if she could help it. Instead she remained squatted, duckwalking to stay with the order line as she grabbed up her books and magazines without comment, wiping them off on her pants one by one as she did so.
She was just wiping off a Joseph Campbell book when a voice behind her said “Ahem.” She glanced back to see a very uptight couple who had just entered the shop with the next small wave of customers. They were in line behind her, standing with squinched and disapproving faces. The man was pushing a large, boldly titled book entailing the many joys of lesbian sex. He moved it towards her with his foot as though it were covered with the fires from hell, disgust written all over both the couples’ faces. Others behind them were watching, some with interest, some with disinterest, some with mutual contempt.
“Thank you,” Lonnie said with the most pleasant smile she could muster, wiping the book off on her black denim clad leg before adding it to the top of her stack. She saw their eyes widen when her wet chest was momentarily displayed as she caught her balance rising before she quickly moved her items in front of it again.
She was not the type to be comfortable with wet tee shirt contests. A hint of bosom, the teasing of the shape was fine, but not a wet shirt plastered to one’s body. Normally, she would have been thoroughly humiliated to be this noticeable. But at the moment she found herself thoroughly annoyed instead.
“Oughta read it,” she muttered when she finally stood and faced the front of the moving line. “Maybe your wife would be smiling instead of looking like she just swigged a jug of pickle juice.” She saw the back of the pregnant woman in front of her jiggling with what she assumed was amusement.
The tall brunette sighed with a scowl. Well, so much for being discreetly lesbian. Might as well slap a flashing neon “lesbian” sticker on my forehead. Then she glanced down. Or on my nipples. Plenty of interest there.
She heard herself snort. What a day! And it was just getting better and better. First that stupid call that woke her up. Then her girlfriend....her ex-girlfriend of three months ago, had called to say she was back in town. She stayed on the line to rant for a half hour about what an uptight, closeted woman Lonnie had been and how much longer their relationship would have lasted if she’d been able to loosen up and have some fun.
I’m not that closeted, she grimaced to herself as she reviewed their conversation. At least, I don’t think I am. I came out to my parents, didn’t I? I just prefer to be discrete. I don’t make an issue of it at work. She snorted again. Work! Maybe since I was the only one working...she could feel her annoyance rising...maybe she just had more time to ” loosen up and have some fun.” Lord knows she worked at it hard enough when I was slaving away at the office!
She hadn’t argued with Cheryl, though. She’d just listened. The woman claimed she would never have searched out comfort in other women’s arms if she’d felt comfortable at home. It wasn’t healthy to hide in the closet every single second, she had admonished.
Well, guess what Cheryl? the brunette looked around her in exasperation, I’m out of the closet now! Come get in line, join my parade of one! You can hold my sex book if it makes you feel better!Everyone here knows I’m a lesbian and a few have even seen some of my physical attributes! She gave a quick pull to once again peel the wet shirt off her chest. Being only modestly endowed, she’d always felt safe wearing no bra under a loose black shirt though she had second thoughts now. And Cheryl had always encouraged her to dress without binding undergarments, although Lonnie couldn’t believe she had ever listened to that woman.
“I sure can pick ‘em,” she muttered, surprised that the words had blurted out instead of staying as a thought in her head.
“Excuse me?” the pregnant woman turned to inquire politely. The petite blonde wore bulging blue jean overalls, fashionable with the college set, probably with the side buttons unbuttoned to allow her very large tummy to extend. A scoop necked soft blue ladies’ knit top stretched to its limits was below the bib with a loose man’s blue chambray shirt over both. An unfastened short blue denim jacket was over that with the shirt hanging below it. It made her look...cute. She was carrying an old suitcase but no purse. Lonnie saw amusement in the blond young woman’s green eyes but something else behind it. Pain of some kind.
“Just talking to myself. Sorry.” Lonnie felt the embarrassment rising in her cheeks.
“I do that, too,” the smaller but much wider woman replied sweetly before turning back around. She had noticed the tall brunette when she first ran into the store. Of course, everything considered, Lonnie had been easy to notice.
The drenched brunette sighed. Then her mother had called as she was showering and left a message on her machine. She and her father were coming out for a surprise visit over Thanksgiving. He was taking the time off work. They’d be here Tuesday but not for her to worry. They wouldn’t be any trouble at all. She wouldn’t even know they were there. They would just use that little guest room she had in her condo with that uncomfortable fold-out bed. She and Cheryl would not have to be inconvenienced in their big bedroom in the least.
Lonnie heaved a heavy sigh and glanced at the display case she was approaching while thoughts of her parents’ impending visit whirled through her head. Much as she loved them, they could be overbearing. She’d have to tell them about Cheryl and listen to her mother’s repeated “I told you so’s” and “thank heavens”. Her mother hadn’t liked her voluptuous bottle-blond girlfriend the one time she’d met her. And, of course, Lonnie’d have to give them her bedroom.
She decided she’d drown her troubles in one of those delicious looking lemon squares with a skinny vanilla latte, maybe two of the squares come to think of it. In fact, maybe she’d throw caution to the wind and not have the latte “skinny” at all. What the hell! Double the vanilla! Fatten up the milk! Didn’t she need to “loosen up and have some fun?”
The small pregnant woman got to the counter and looked at the array of choices--a multitude of lattes, steamers, espressos, cappucinos, mocha primas and even smoothies. She ordered a banana smoothie then she began to count the change from her pocket to see if she could put together enough for something else. She looked at the cinnamon rolls and continued counting. The brunette shifted her heavy load of books to her other arm and waited. She wasn’t going to worry about opening her fanny pack to pay for her own purchase until she could put her books down.
“What else’ll ya have, lady?” the teenaged boy behind the counter asked the pregnant woman impatiently. “We don’t have all day.” The line had continued to grow and it flustered the woman, who was becoming embarrassed.
“Oh, uh, no, it’s all right,” she answered glancing back at the line. “Just...just the smoothie.”
“No it isn’t all right,” Lonnie spoke up. Usually she minded her own business, but this woman had been very nice to her. “You take your time, lady, and pick what you want.” The tall woman frowned at the boy, “Cool your jets, dude! Give her a chance here.”
“No, really, it’s all right.” The small pregnant woman said, “Just the smoothie.” She dropped the change back in her jacket pocket, leaving the exact change for the smoothie out.
The boy brought her drink and the pregnant woman walked away with an embarrassed look at the long line.
“What about you?” the boy asked. “Whad’ya want?”
Lonnie put her books on the high glass counter and stood at her full six foot height to stare down into the boy’s eyes as she unzipped her pack. She kept it in front of her wet bosom as much as possible as she dug around inside it.
“Let’s see, I’ll have a cinnamon roll and two lemon squares and a vanilla latte.”
She noticed the boy oogling what showed of her chest but decided she was feeling warmer and maybe they wouldn’t be such an item of interest much longer. After all, how long can nipples stand at full attention? Then his eyes went to her book regarding lesbian sex, the one on top of her stack. Yeah, get a good look, dipstick! Then get a clue, twerp! She opened her wallet, drawing out a twenty. She handed it to the boy and drilled her own stare into his prying eyes. She had just about had enough nonsense for today.
He turned to get her order. Yes, she sighed, a vanilla latte is just what the doctor ordered for this miserable day. Here in the Pacific Northwest, it was decidedly comfort food.
“We’re out of vanilla,” he said without much interest. “Bigger crowd than normal. Want any other flavoring?”
Vanilla was what she loved about the latte. The coffee itself was meaningless without it. She didn’t even like coffee that much.
She stared at him for a minute then snorted. “Of course you’re out of vanilla! What was I thinking? Make it a hot chocolate then.”
He brought the items and she then had the unenviable task of trying to balance everything on top of her books, grasp her fanny pack while the straps dangled at the same time covering her chest while she searched for a place to sit. She saw the pregnant woman sitting at one of the small two-person round tables by herself. There was one other empty small table but no booths. She always preferred booths. She moved to the table with the woman who was staring almost morosely into space as she sipped her smoothie.
“Would you be offended if I sat here?” the tall woman asked, snapping the woman from her sorrowful musings.
“No, my pleasure,” the small blonde smiled. Her face seemed to light up at the appearance of the tall brunette with the deep blue eyes. Lonnie could see the pregnant woman was petite when she wasn’t large with child. Her soft skin was lightly flushed, her cheeks dabbed with freckles and character was written in her girlish features.
“Thanks,” Lonnie put her books and food items down carefully and slid her fanny pack onto the table beside them. She slumped in the chair and arranged her arm in front of her bosom in as casual a pose as she could attain before lifting the hot chocolate off the top book, clumsily snagging the end of the cup and slopping just a small blob that slipped down the page edges of the book, the lesbian sex book. Lonnie growled and wiped it off with her silk shirt sleeve. What the heck, her shirt was wet already anyway.
What next? She examined the edge of the book. No serious damage done. No point complaining anyway, some days were just like that. But it did not improve her mood. The pages would stick together and would have little smudges of chocolate for the first fifty pages or so. But it was useable.
She had purchased it as a joining present for some friends of hers who were having a joining ceremony later in the month. Being pushed across a floor covered with muddy water had not helped its appearance in the least. Now the chocolate. The danged thing looked like it had been through a war! She’d definitely have to keep this copy herself, not that she ever imagined that she’d have any particular need for it. Well, it never hurts to keep an open mind. There’s always room to learn things, not that Cheryl hasn’t taught me much more than I ever thought existed and certainly much more than all my other girlfriends combined.
She looked at the cinnamon roll. “I got this for you,” she graced the blonde woman who was watching her carefully with a radiant smile. She pushed the pastry over toward her. Lonnie’s mouth suddenly went dry as the blonde’s captivating green eyes looked up in surprise into hers. Wow! She is cute! Very pregnant but very cute! Gods! Look at those freckles and those mesmerizing eyes!
“For me?” the small pregnant woman looked shocked. Then she caught herself and dug for her change in her pocket. “Here,” she said starting to count out the change.
“No, no, my treat. Please. Humor me here,” the tall brunette sighed. She placed a warm hand on the smaller woman’s arm and looked sincerely into her eyes, “You have no idea what kind of a day I’ve had.” She let her hand rest there for a second then gently pulled it back. It seemed to startle the blonde. Oh great, now she probably thinks I’m hitting on her!
Distracted by the unexpected touch, the pregnant woman considered her words. Her day? Couldn’t be a worse day than mine! She smiled and said softly, “Uh, yes, I saw you drop your books. I’m sorry.”
The small blonde glanced at the roll in front of her. My unexpected hero, she thought. She can’t know I haven’t eaten since yesterday. And, Gods! What dazzling eyes! She could see the brunette’s shoulder and arm muscles ripple slightly as they moved under her wet shirt. She works out! Wow, olive skin and dark hair sure make those brilliant blue eyes stand out. They’re scintillating! She made a point of not letting her eyes go to the woman’s enticing bosom, which she had already seen while they were in line anyway.
“Frosting,” Lonnie replied, “I swear!” She looked around the store then took a bite of the lemon square. It tasted wonderful! Homemade with just the right blend of tart lemon with sweet overtones and flaky crust. She’d have to remember this place. They had fabulous goodies. She wanted to smack her lips loudly and sing a rousing chorus of “Hallelujah”. At last something good and tasty was happening!
“Excuse me?” the young woman asked.
“Oh, uh, frosting,” Lonnie smiled filling her mouth with another scrumptious bite of the lemon square, “_ropping mah bhooks was _rosting,” she chewed and swallowed, “on a series of catastrophes and mishaps for the day.”
“Oh,” the blonde smiled. Her green eyes were warm and friendly. “I know what you mean.” She took a bite of the cinnamon roll and her whole face turned into one of ecstasy. “Mmm, this is very good. Thank you.”
“Looks like they make the best ones around here. And you’re very welcome.” Lonnie looked at the woman a little more closely. Cute doesn’t even begin to describe it! Blonde hair and big, warm saucer-like green eyes. Wow! There’s some lucky guy out there! The blonde had a bandanna tied around her hair and both were wet but she wasn’t near as soaked as Lonnie. The blonde’s short denim jacket didn’t reach around her but the rest of her clothes made her seem as though she was fresh off a western college campus. A small, beat up, cardboard sided suitcase sat by the woman’s chair and Lonnie wondered about it but didn’t feel free to ask.
“Is it good for the baby to have sweets like that?” she asked instead.
“Uh, I don’t think it will hurt the baby, do you?” the blonde woman looked almost fearfully at Lonnie and rubbed her hand across her very wide girth. “I don’t normally eat a lot of sweets.” Large green eyes with just a touch of vulnerability shone back. She was cuter than cute.
“No,” Lonnie sipped her chocolate. “Heck, don’t they talk about pregnant women getting cravings for pickles and ice cream or something like that?”
“Yes,” the woman smiled and her face became radiant. Lonnie guessed she was younger than herself, but maybe not a lot. For sure college age, early to mid twenties. At twenty-six, Lonnie had begun to feel morbidly adult.
“I’m sorry, I should introduce myself. I’m Lonnie Shaeker.” She wiped her hand on her black jeans to get rid of the crumbs before offering her hand in greeting.
A smaller hand came out to meet hers, “Ruby Jenningsford,” the woman said and shook her hand. The warmth of the larger hand was strangely comforting.
“Ruby? Like in the song?” Lonnie returned the woman’s charming smile.
“Yes,” she put her hand gently on her large belly.
“You took your love to town?” Lonnie had a smirk then realized what it must sound like she was calling the woman and responded quickly, “I’m kidding, of course.”
“Of course.” The blonde looked away. The smile was gone.
Right, Bozo, Lonnie accused herself. Call the woman a whore why don’t you? It’s a wonder she didn’t slug you or something! The way the day’s going she could have beaten you to a bloody pulp.
“Uh, when is the baby due?”
“Next month,” Ruby turned a sobered face the tall brunette’s direction. “near Christmas.”
“Ahh,” Lonnie drank some more chocolate and made sure her arm stayed covering her bosom. Two business men squeezed past their table and gave them rather strange looks before moving on. That prompted Ruby to chuckle.
“What’s their problem?” Lonnie grumbled, watching them move farther away from the two of them with several looks back. She scowled menacingly at them in return.
“I think it’s your book and the fact that you’re sitting here with me,” Ruby grinned.
Lonnie looked at the book and at the decidedly pregnant woman and began to laugh. “They must think I’m very talented,” she chortled.
“Yes,” Ruby chuckled. “Exceptionally.”
“Would you like this second lemon square?” Lonnie asked. “My eyes were bigger than my stomach.”
“I can’t say that,” Ruby grinned, rubbing her tummy again. It occurred to her that this was as cheerful as she’d felt in a long time.
“No,” Lonnie laughed, “You certainly can’t. Here, please. Otherwise it will go to waste.”
“All right.” Ruby took a bite of the lemon square and washed it down with some of her last sips of smoothie.
Lonnie looked at Ruby’s ring finger and saw a simple gold band on the woman’s finger. “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl? I guess it’s pretty easy for the doctors to tell these days.”
“No,” Ruby took another bite. “I don’t know.” She finished the rest of the square and took her napkin to tidy up her spot, stuffing the napkin in her cup to throw away.
Lonnie glanced out the window. “Thank heavens! It’s stopped raining. Now it looks like the sun is going to shine! I love the mellow weather here in the Northwest and I even love the rain. But not when it’s coming down in buckets like it does in California. Our weather has begun to turn into California-type weather. We’ve had lots more long, hot, dry spells, warmer winters and now rain in deluges.”
“I’ve heard it rains here in Portland like it does in Seattle,” the blonde said.
“You’re not from here?”
“No. I’m just passing through.”
“Oh. I was going to offer you a ride to wherever you were going.” Lonnie looked back to see Ruby’s features turn pale.
“Oh my gosh,” the small woman whispered, then she gasped and leaned over as far as she could. “Ohh.” Both hands gripped her stomach.
“What’s the matter?” Lonnie sat up nervously, forgetting to cover her chest. No, no, no, no. This can’t be happening!
“I think the baby’s coming,” the small woman moaned. Then panic hit her face. “It’s not time! My baby!”
“Oh my God!” Lonnie jumped up nearly tipping her chair over doing so. “It IS happening! Do you want me to call an ambulance?” She dug around furiously in her unbuckled fanny pack. “I have a phone in here somewhere.” Panic began to set in and the tall woman dug harder. “We can call 911. They can get an ambulance here immediately.”
“No, no,” the small woman reached a hand out to touch her, “I think I have time to get there. Can you give me a ride to the county hospital?”
“Yes, yes,” Lonnie snapped on her fanny pack, grabbed her books then grabbed the woman’s suitcase and waited for the woman’s pain to pass for her to rise. Having this woman walk to the car while she was starting to deliver did not seem prudent, however. “No, no. Here, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Uh, uh, you wait here. Then, uh, I’ll bring the car.” She tapped her fingers nervously against her jean leg. “It’s a maroon jeep. Okay? Watch out this window. I’ll pick you up right there! Don’t worry!”
“Can you leave my suitcase, please?” the smaller woman asked.
“Huh? Oh, sure. Yes, of course. You stay right here. Now, don’t go anywhere! I’ll be right back.”
“Stay calm,” the pregnant woman advised. Then her brow furrowed as another pain grabbed her. “But hurry.”
“Yes, yes, I’ll be right back!” Lonnie balanced her books and ran out of the coffee shop and down the street towards her car carrying on a steady stream of conversation with herself as she ran.
“My God, she’s having a baby! Of course, she is. Did you think you could sit by a pregnant woman today and not set the whole thing in motion? The stars are railing against you! Or maybe I poisoned her with the cinnamon roll. Oh dear God! It wouldn’t be surprising. Look how this whole day has been going!”
She got to her car, threw her books into the back with her black leather jacket and fired the engine. She screeched wildly out of her spot cutting off a line of cars and wove recklessly through traffic to get outside the coffee house entrance where, still in the line of traffic on the street, she slammed on her brakes and threw open the door to jump out causing the car next to her to swerve away. The whole line of cars behind her screeched to a sudden and unhappy stop. Horns began to honk.
She glanced up to see two men helping the pregnant woman out to the car, one carrying her suitcase.
Lonnie ran to the other side and threw open both doors. She yanked the suitcase from the man’s hand and threw it in the back. Cars that had been honking quit instantly when they spotted the pregnant woman headed toward the car. Some squirreled around her and others sat and waited patiently.
Ruby got in and adjusted the seat belt. Lonnie climbed back and slammed her door. “There’s a closer hospital,” she said watching the traffic then squealing around through it. “Just down the street.”
“No. It has to be the county hospital. I don’t have any insurance.”
“Okay. All right. It’s on the hill. I can do that. Hold on.” Steep hills, most of them heavily forested, ran the length of the city on the west, paralleling the river with the downtown city buildings snuggled between. The east side of the river was all city seeming to stretch over hill and vale to the distance where forested blue foothills ran to snow-topped Mt. Hood as it sat regally overlooking all. A number of bridges crossed like bracelets across the Willamette River that divided the city.
Keep calm, Lonnie told herself, You have a pregnant woman aboard. That thought did not calm the tall brunette’s nerves and when Ruby moaned once more, the brunette squirreled the jeep even harder through the rows of cars on Broadway, again leaving an array of honking vehicles behind her. She finally hit the turnoff to the hill and drove her foot into the accelerator till Ruby asked her to please slow down. The road was windy and she was getting car sick.
“Do you want me to call your husband when we get there?” Lonnie tried to slow enough that the wheels wouldn’t screech around every single tiny little turn, of which there were a great many. Her blue eyes were nearly wild with anxiety. She glanced at the small woman’s stomach and wondered how something that large could make its way through what had to be a small opening to get out. It couldn’t do it easily. She knew that much. She pulled her legs tightly together in response. Oh, ow...big time ow, she thought desperately and looked at the small blonde’s pained expression. Pain killers, she needs pain killers. Hurry!
There was a long pause with the smaller woman saying nothing. She seemed to be debating with herself. Then she said softly, “There is no husband.”
Lonnie’s eyes went instantly to the ring on the blonde’s left hand. The blonde lifted her vulnerable green eyes to Lonnie’s face and said, “It’s for show. I bought it myself.”
“Oh,” Lonnie tried to digest that, but the frenzy of the situation was winning out. “Okay.” She knew she should encourage this small woman who was about to explode with child. “You’ll be fine. It’ll be fine.” Oh, please, please, let it be fine.
Another pain and the woman moaned again. “I hope so,” she said dubiously.
“Dear Heavens!” Lonnie exclaimed when she got to the hillside hospital site. Everything was under construction and before her lay a twisting confusion of roadways with many, many more buildings clinging to the sides of the hill than she remembered from the last time she had driven up here. Which one?
She rolled down her window then screeched up to a man in a white lab coat crossing the street, forcing him to stop or be run over. “I’ve got a pregnant woman about to deliver. Where do I go?” she demanded. If necessary, she was willing to jump out and shake the man till he told her which direction to head.
“Turn right between those buildings, go up the hill to the stop sign, turn left and it’s the first building on your right. You’ll see the emergency entrance.” The man glanced over at Ruby who was moaning. Lonnie heard the moan and took off on the fly, laying a good patch of rubber at the man’s feet to examine if he so chose.
There was another car ahead of her in the emergency entrance but Lonnie slammed her car into park and pulled the handbrake, jumped out and ran inside yelling that she had a pregnant woman delivering here, they’d better crack their asses! Hospital staff ran back out with her, one pushing a wheelchair.
“Be careful with her! Don’t hurt her!” she demanded of the man helping Ruby into the chair. That warranted a delightful smile flashed at her from the small woman. She hurried along holding Ruby’s hand as they moved her rapidly inside. She nervously patted the small hand. Her car was left running with every door open, the suitcase, her leather jacket and her purchases all sitting there unsupervised.
A nurse came with admittance papers on a clip board and sat with Ruby to help fill them out.
“Lady, you gotta move your car,” the attendant said to Lonnie.
“No, this gets done first,” she said, her eyes not wavering from Ruby.
“The nurse’ll do it. You gotta move your car.”
“No.” Lonnie stayed by Ruby’s side as the nurse asked questions.
“Why don’t you move the....” a pain hit Ruby again and she gasped.
“Help her!” Lonnie demanded of the nurse, “Do something!”
The nurse looked over with amusement. “This has to be done first,” she said calmly.
“The hell it does!” Lonnie replied. “Help her first or I’ll push that smile clean out of your tooting section!”
“Lonnie,” Ruby said softly, “Why don’t you move the car then come back and help me, okay?”
“You want me to move the car?” She looked intently at the small woman.
“Yes, please.” She smiled and the nurse looked over and shook her head.
“I’ll be right back,” she said encouragingly to the pregnant woman.
Lonnie threw a scowl at the nurse and headed out the door on the run. The car was still there running with everything intact. She slammed all the doors, including her own once she got in.
“Now, finding a parking place is not going to be easy,” she muttered to herself. “I’ll have to be creative!” She squealed out of the emergency entrance and down the steep hill to a parking terrace they’d passed. She drove around the lot once then made her own parking spot right at the entrance by pulling up next to the first car in the center row already parked there inside the lines. She looked her jeep over carefully. Yeah, there’s room for the traffic to get around it.
She grabbed her jacket to cover her wet shirt and her spy magazine in case this was going to take a while. She hit the lock set and jogged up the hill to the hospital emergency room.
Ruby was no longer there.
“Where is she?” Lonnie asked the nurse at the desk. “Where did they take her?”
“Calm down,” the same nurse admonished. She frowned at Lonnie and it occurred to the tall woman that perhaps she hadn’t liked her “tooting section” remark.
“Tough!” Lonnie said outloud, not meaning to. “Where do they have her? Don’t give me any crap!” She’d had enough nonsense thrown at her today. At this point she wasn’t going to put up with an insolent nurse.
Now the nurse had a large glimmer of hostility in her eyes where she’d only been amused before. “The doctor’s examining her. You’ll have to wait here till they say you can go back.” Her crisp words dripped icicles, but Lonnie didn’t care.
Ruby could hear Lonnie raising the fuss out in the entrance and smiled. It felt nice to have someone give a darn about her at this point. The older nurse was now helping her and carefully pulled the blonde’s jacket off and hung it up while Ruby began to slide off the man’s shirt that she had on. The nurse gasped as Ruby dropped the shirt off her arms.
“Did she do this to you?” the nurse asked accusingly.
“What? Lonnie? No!” Ruby chuckled. “She didn’t do this. I don’t really know her. She just gave me a ride here.”
“We have to file a police report,” the nurse said.
“I was attacked by two young muggers outside the bus depot in Seattle early this morning. They got my purse. I already filed a police report.” The bruises on her arms had turned dark and showed definite finger markings.
“Uh huh,” the nurse replied. “Want me to help you change into this?” She held up the hospital gown. “You have to take everything off.”
It was not easy dressing and undressing at her size. But still, she didn’t know this woman. Another pain struck and the nurse checked the time and wrote it down. That clinched Ruby’s decision. “Uh, okay, I guess.” Ruby unclipped her overall straps and grabbed the bottom of her knit shirt. The nurse helped her pull it off.
“They got all my money and identification,” Ruby talked nervously as she shed her clothes with help and put her arms out to slip on the tie-in-the-back cover they used. The fly-away gown had snaps at the shoulders as well.
“Uh huh,” the older woman said as she tied it for Ruby.
“All my savings and everything,” she added sadly. She leaned on the older woman as she stepped on the end step to get onto the table. “Months I’d been saving for this move. Money so I wouldn’t have to work until a couple months after I had the baby. They got it all. Nearly every cent I had in the world.”
“Uh huh. Scoot back,” the nurse helped her scoot back further on the table.
“If I hadn’t already bought my bus ticket, I’d of had to stay there and I’d already given up my, uh, room.” She knew her roommates already had someone else lined up to share their house. She couldn’t really have stayed.
“I knew I should have left my savings in the bank and had them transfer it when I got to California. But I thought it would be safer with me and I thought I might need a large chunk of it right away when I found a place. I was going to pay in advance for three months rent, you see.”
“Uh huh.” The nurse adjusted her glasses and drew Ruby’s arm closer to her face to examine the finger-shaped bruises. “Looks about the same size as that gal’s hands,” she stated condemningly.
“What? No, it wasn’t her.” Ruby looked at the nurse who raised an eyebrow. The older woman bustled around, putting the stirrups in place and waited while Ruby had another pain. She marked it down and spread a half sheet over her. “It’s better for everyone to just tell the truth about what really happened,” she advised.
“Oh, yes, well, I was headed to San Francisco to get an apartment there,” Ruby continued. Then she had another pain and had to wait before going on. The nurse noted the time again on her chart. Green eyes looked over when the pain had diminished. “I didn’t feel well so I got off the bus here in Portland and got caught in the rain. That’s when I met Lonnie. She didn’t hurt me.” She thought then added morosely, “All my luggage is heading south as we speak except my carry-on.”
“How didn’t you feel well?” the nurse brought her chart over.
“Oh, uh, I felt kind of like I was getting real car sick.” She added quickly, “but I’ve never gotten car sick. It’s not something I tend to do.”
The nurse wrote down what she was saying. Then she brought hard eyes up to meet the young woman. “You understand that the doctor will have to file a police report,” she said. “You can’t cover for your... significant other...” She took Ruby’s wrist, shushed the denial on Ruby’s lips while she listened, wrote down her pulse reading and dropped Ruby’s arm. “Not any more. Today the police report is filled out whether you agree or not.”
The woman slipped a blood pressure cuff on her arm and began to pump. “Significant other?” Ruby glanced at her with a puzzled look, then realized the woman meant Lonnie. Don’t I wish! “Do you mean Lonnie out there? I told you, it wasn’t her. She just gave me a ride from the coffee shop. The police can check with the Seattle police. I already filed a report this morning. That’s part of why I didn’t eat breakfast. I was going to eat at the bus depot before leaving, but it took so long to fill out the report and besides, the thieves took all my money except the change in my pocket..”
“Shhh,” The nurse listened then wrote down her findings and took off the cuff. “Lay back,” she stepped forward to help Ruby lay back.
Lonnie stood outside in the waiting area pacing back and forth. As soon as the patient the nurse’d been talking to left, Lonnie asked, “Do they know anything yet?”
“No,” the nurse answered frostily. “Go sit and wait. We’ll call you.”
Lonnie did not sit. There were already enough people sitting. The place was full of people sitting. And coughing. And looking sick. She paced.
The older nurse came out and talked in a low tone behind her hand to the nurse at the desk. They both looked at Lonnie who glowered back at them as she paced.
“She threatened me,” the younger nurse said in a lowered voice back to the other. “Threatened to...” and then she reached up and whispered the rest of the tooter section threat in the older woman’s ear.
“NO!” the older nurse shot daggers with her eyes at Lonnie. “I’ll add that to the report.” She left and the younger nurse continued waiting on patients.
Lonnie saw the policeman go back and wondered who had gotten into trouble. She paced. No word. Nothing. She leaned against a wall and tried to flip through her spy magazine. Suddenly Russia’s ‘Secret Service’, England’s MI 5 and MI 6, the CIA, the Kremlin Guard and the covert world of espionage was not very interesting. At least, she couldn’t concentrate on it while that small woman was in there trying to force a giant watermelon out through a small opening.
“What’s happening? Is she alright?” Lonnie asked the same scowling nurse between patients. The place was a hotbed of activity with patient after patient registering. She wondered where they’d put them all.
She snorted and Lonnie thought she said, “No thanks to you.” That puzzled Lonnie.
The tall brunette grumbled and went back to her wall. She looked over the ads in her magazine. Protective bulletproof vests...light. They looked like heavy old surplus vests to her. Yeah, those old ones weigh a ton. They look real bulky. Light is relative, isn’t it. And would they stop the big one? Not a chance, she decided. A bodyguard association...hmmm. I’ll keep that in mind. A mobile phone with remarkable encryption for ‘unbreachable communiqués.’ Normally she would have been fascinated. Now it paled next to the human drama occurring behind these walls.
“They could have flown in a specialist from Geneva by now, for cripe sakes!” she grumbled to the nurse. “What’s happening? Is she all right?”
The woman raised a brow, then ignored her by turning to help a new arrival who was complaining of flu-like symptoms.
Lonnie went back to pacing, her magazine rolled up and in her leather jacket pocket. The nurse shot her a look. There was definitely something sinister about the appearance of the scowling, tall woman with the long black hair dressed in black jeans, hiking boots, damp black silk shirt, fanny pack in front and black leather jacket. Her steely blue eyes under deeply furrowed brows glared at each person who caught her gaze.
The policeman emerged from the back and stopped at the nurse’s desk. She pointed to Lonnie and the man approached her.
“Did you threaten one of these nurses?” he asked the tall woman.
“What did you say, Officer? Threaten?” she glanced over to see the nurse smiling smugly back at her. Oh, cripe, the tooter comment! “Uh, not really. I had a woman in labor and they wanted to stop and write down all kinds of name and address crap. I might have gotten a little over excited. But that’s all. Did you see her back there? Is she all right?”
“Yeah. She’s all right. The doctor’s with her.” The policeman chuckled. “I felt like that when my wife was having our kid. What’s that in your pocket?”
“Oh, my spy magazine.” Lonnie took it out and unrolled it. She handed it to the man and he began to turn the pages.
“Cool,” he said. “I haven’t seen this one before.”
“It’s published in Europe, I think,” Lonnie watched him turn pages. “Here,” she took the magazine and turned back to a page he’d missed. “Look at this. A specially encrypted mobile phone. Neat, huh?”
The man smiled and read the ad. “Yeah,” he mumbled. Then he looked at the ad for the old-fashioned, bulky bulletproof vest. He tapped the picture. “You have to be careful, they don’t even have a rating for these,” he muttered. “You always want to check the rating.”
“Would they stop the big one?” Lonnie asked.
“Not a chance,” he replied, “not if they’re not rated to.”
“That’s what I thought,” she agreed.
“But now these vests are much better,” he tapped a different ad on the next page. “See, these are rated for most callibers. That’s what that number there means and they’re light enough to be comfortable.”
“Ah,” Lonnie nodded. Then they both glanced at the nurse’s station where the older nurse had now joined the other nurse and were glaring in their direction. He stood up straight, adjusted his heavy belt of baton, pistol, cuff case and other various items and handed the magazine back.
His voice was louder, “Well, next time you should take more care in what you say to the ladies there.” He glanced over to see the smugness return to their faces. He turned his back on them and added softly, “They have ways to make you pay.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Lonnie rolled her magazine back up and put it in her pocket as she saw the man wink and head on out the door. Now I really want to jam that smile out her tooter section! But she smiled back sweetly instead. Both nurses turned and got back to work.
The sun went down and still she paced. Well, the sun went down very early with daylight savings time, but still it had been hours and patients had come and gone in abundance. Finally the older nurse came out and called her back. She rushed beside the woman into the room where Ruby was sitting on the hard examining table. She halted the minute she stepped into the room.
“Ruby! What happened to your arms? Why are you covered with bruises?”
The nurse cast a suspicious look at Lonnie and muttered under her breath, “Yeah, right.”
Lonnie moved toward Ruby, narrowed her eyes and glared accusingly at the nurse. “Did they do this to you?” That got a startled then very wary look in return from the nurse.
“It’s all right, Lonnie,” Ruby answered sweetly. “I was accosted earlier today and robbed. I filled out a police report. The policeman was just here and he checked.” Lonnie stood beside her and took her hand gently.
“Accosted? Robbed? Oh my gosh! Are you all right?” The tall woman looked at the smaller woman sitting on the table, the stirrups sitting on the counter, not yet put away. She was clutching a half sheet around herself and she had on the flimsy hospital gown. Her other hand was settled in Lonnie’s larger hand.
“I’m fine. They drew some blood,” round green eyes looked back at Lonnie. “Checking on the baby,” she smiled momentarily, but Lonnie could see the concern in her face.
Lonnie took a half-step back to examine the small woman for a minute. “You’re not in pain...you’re not...what do they say..having contractions?”
“No. It stopped. False labor, the doctor said.” She was huge as small women tend to be when they get pregnant, but she looked smaller and much more vulnerable on this table.
“Oh. It can do that?”
“Apparently.” The smaller woman shivered and Lonnie took off her heavy black leather jacket. Her blouse was dry by now. She slipped the jacket around the shoulders of the pregnant woman, eliciting a soft smile in return. Ruby cuddled into the jacket and pulled it closer around her.
The doctor rushed back in and glanced at Lonnie before sitting and rolling his stool up in front of Ruby. Ruby edged back on the table and reached for Lonnie’s hand. They interlaced their fingers and Ruby nervously squeezed the tall woman’s hand while chewing her lip. She’s afraid of the doctor, Lonnie decided at feeling Ruby’s trembling hand in her own. The tall brunette stepped closer to Ruby, her frown and drilling blue eyes now directed at the doctor, causing the man to blink his eyes rapidly and move the stool back more than he was used to. She was certainly a threatening presence. Ruby eased a sigh, almost of relief.
The tall brunette listened carefully and watched but did not see him doing anything even vaguely improper. She wondered if she might have misinterpreted Ruby’s sentiments, but didn’t think she had. Perhaps she was afraid of what he might tell her.
The doctor discussed his concerns. From that Lonnie determined that Ruby was going to need to take it extremely easy and watch her diet. She had to drink plenty of fluids. Apparently he had already talked to her earlier and this was follow-up. They discussed that the trauma of the robbery was not good but the good news was that there was no indication the young hoodlums had physically assaulted the child at all. There were additional tests he’d already talked to her about, and she should discuss them with her regular doctor.
Ruby nodded in affirmation of much of what he was saying. “They just grabbed my arms and snatched my purse,” she offered, “They didn’t touch the baby.”
Man, I’d like to get my hands on those hoodlums! Lonnie adjusted the blonde’s hand to pat and rub it gently as the doctor talked. The tall woman heard something about the blood work being all right. But the false labor and some of the numbers worried him. He talked about how exercise was important but in Ruby’s case she needed to stay in bed. Ruby continued nodding from time to time as he spoke.
“I’m going to give you a diet list like I told you before,” he said, and both women nodded. “And you must drink plenty of fluids. That’s crucial. The fluids are on the list. You’ll need a regular doctor to keep track of what’s happening.”
Both Lonnie and Ruby remained very quiet, both listening.
The doctor looked up from his writing. Lonnie could see no threat in anything he was doing and decided she’d misinterpreted Ruby’s actions. “I’m going to write out a prescription for some supplements I want you to take. Do you have a place here in town to stay? You said you were just passing through but it isn’t safe to go on. You don’t want more complications. You need to stay in bed. Do you have a place?”
“Yes,” Lonnie answered.
“No,” Ruby answered at the same time.
Lonnie looked at Ruby. “Stay at my place, why don’t you? I have an extra room and I can make sure you eat right. I’ll be at work part of the time, but I can have someone check on you when I’m gone. Say yes, all right?”
Thoughts were swirling in Ruby’s mind. She was entirely confident that Lonnie was no axe murderer and posed no threat to her in any way. In fact, being with this tall beauty was a like a beautiful dream. But that didn’t seem at all real. And she’d been extremely worried about what she should do from the minute she knew she had to get off the bus when she wasn’t feeling well. Then when she felt better once she was off the bus, she’d decided she’d check on a shelter until she felt well enough to go on. And now here was Lonnie offering her home as a place to stay. “Thank you,” she said shyly.
“She does,” Lonnie grinned at the doctor, who still kept his distance from this tall menacing stranger.
“All right,” the man stood. “We’re going to release you. You really need to get a doctor here in town right away to monitor everything until the baby’s born. Traveling is definitely out. Get this filled, see a regular physician immediately and stay in bed--the whole time. And don’t forget what we discussed earlier about the additional tests.”
“Yes, doctor,” Ruby said. The man put the prescription on the counter and left the room. The older nurse returned to help the small woman dress.
“Why don’t I run over and get this filled while you’re getting dressed. Then I’ll come back and get you.” Lonnie stood, picked up the prescription and headed toward the door.
“I can’t have you pay for my prescription,” Ruby said. “I can wait on it.”
Lonnie heard the worry in the small blonde’s voice and smiled, “It’s no problem. We’ll work it out later.” She saw the small woman start to object. “Ah, ah, doctor’s orders,” the brunette added warningly.
“Take your jacket,” the small woman said crankily, starting to move to the edge of the table. Then she added with a tenuous smile, “I’m keeping track of every cent I owe you.”
Lonnie took the jacket and slipped it back on, luxuriating in the warmth she knew came from the blonde. “Fine. Be right back. Now, don’t go anywhere without me!” She knew that was a pretty safe admonition. She hurried to the pharmacy, the smile still on her face.
It hadn’t been too much. She’d paid for her books with her low-interest credit card, but for this she paid cash. After Cheryl left, she’d been able to save a great deal of her salary each month even though her credit card bill carried a couple thousand dollars from Cheryl’s charging. By herself she’d never charged more than she could pay off each month. Until Cheryl, she’d never carried a credit card balance in her life.
Her parents had always been proud of their ability to save money and had taught their children the same values. She, like all the children, had inherited the trait, faultering only when Cheryl was around. Still, her reserves weren’t in too bad a shape and she was making double payments to get the credit card debt down.
Ruby was dressed and in a wheel chair waiting by the main doors when she got back. Lonnie approached, grinning widely at the welcome showing in the small blonde’s face. Gods, she has a breathtakingly beautiful smile, Lonnie thought. Her heart leaped at the feelings it inspired. She motioned to the parking area, waited for the slight return nod from the blonde as though they had spoken in wordless communication for years. Then she ran to get the car.
She helped them carefully load Ruby into the jeep and she drove home slowly. There was no wild ride this time. And no necessary conversation. They both felt totally relaxed with the other, simply content to share the same time and space watching the landscape lit by streetlights as they drove by. Being together felt as natural as drawing breath to both of them.
The condo building sat down a curving road on a quiet tree-lined, middle-class neighborhood street not that far from downtown. The grounds were nicely landscaped and well lit and the outside of the building with the flowing lines of the balconies left a distinct impression of tasteful design. Though modern, the building blended well with its tree-filled surroundings. All together there were about fifty units in the three floors. The parking was to the side in the front.
Lonnie pulled into her spot and helped the pregnant blonde out of the car. She carried her suitcase while leading her by the elbow to the front entrance. She had to make sure not to go too quickly. Ruby had been through enough excitement for the day, and so had Lonnie. It wasn’t the kid’s day to pop and she didn’t want to force the infant to do so.
The large entrance lobby with its wall of floor to ceiling windows was well-lit inside with a light and airy feel. There were a number of people in business clothes waiting in the back near the elevator and an older lady stood talking to the young man behind the desk.
A large blond oak counter that was always manned was near the oak, mirror and brass decorated elevator that ran to the three floors. A plant stand before the mirrored wall by the elevator had a gorgeous fall dried flower arrangement on it, and a cornucopia for Thanksgiving with real fruit and vegetables was displayed on the shelf behind the worker’s reception desk.
There were stairwells, but none opened from the outside without a key. Indoor locked mailboxes were located to the side of the counter and everything was spotless. The elevator arrived and the small group disappeared into it.
Lonnie unlocked her box and pulled out her mail. Large green eyes took in the surroundings with almost a childlike pleasure. “There’s a pool,” Ruby said. They could smell the chemicals here in the main entrance.
“Yes, down that hall and to the right. There’s also an exercise room and across the hall is a club room with a fireplace that can be rented for large parties.” Lonnie led the small blonde to the elevator and pressed the button. Ruby continued to look around as they waited. She saw a young couple emerge from a doorway marked “stairs” and proceed down the hall Lonnie had pointed out. They were in jogging outfits with towels over their shoulders. The elevator returned, they entered and the brunette hit “three.”
Ruby was very impressed with the building as they moved through it. It was extremely well kept and very nice. Much nicer than anything she was used to. Her first “furnished”, one-room “studio apartment” in Seattle had been a cheap, dingy rat hole in a decidedly seedy part of town. But it was what she could afford, it allowed her to save, and she had kept it neat. The little house she’d shared after that was just that...little. She’d spent most of her time in her nine by nine bedroom. The dorm room she shared with Nicole had also been tiny and before she came to the dorm, her family home had been an old, ramshackled, rundown house on a scraggly, littered ranch in Utah.
They’d all had chores on the ranch but none of her family gave attention to building or yard upkeep. Ruby had grown up attending church each Sunday, sewing her own clothes and cooking for everyone. Actually both she and her sister helped her mother with the cooking until her sister married and moved out. It had been the girls’ job to cook and clean house. When a kitchen window was accidentally broken by one of the boys, it was boarded up waiting for someone to find time to get around to fixing it. In all the time she’d been there, no one ever had.
“I can’t thank you enough,” the blonde smiled.
“It’s my pleasure,” Lonnie replied. And that was exactly what she considered it. Anything to do with this beautiful blonde was a pleasure to Lonnie.
Lonnie’s condo itself was a small two-bedroom unit on the back side of the top floor with a series of balconies overlooking the landscaped grounds that ran to the woods behind. That had been part of its appeal to Lonnie, that and the fabulous buyout she was able to swing. The balconies made all the units seem larger. Actually her unit was small in square footage. But Lonnie loved it and liked the area. Most of the tenants were yuppies or retired people. It was quiet and seemed rural even though it was close to the downtown area and her work.
Lonnie unlocked the door and escorted Ruby into the small tiled entry leading to both the dining area on the right and the long living room directly ahead. She dropped her keys in the bowl on the small stand by the closet door and hung her fanny pack on a hook inside the door. She hung both their jackets in the closet as well.
Although limited in space, even the inside had a sleek look to Ruby, making the unit seem spacious and expensive, much more so than it really was. Her eyes got large at the sight. The light-colored Danish wood furniture looked so modern to her, as did the artwork.
The living room fronted the balcony at the back of the building. The Danish style couch of black leather and light wood trim had its back to them as they entered. It was the only piece of dark furniture that she saw. In front of the couch on the beige wall-to-wall carpeting was a fairly large throw rug of white and multiple muted beiges in large, subtle modern designs. Glass end tables framed in light wood and a matching coffee table flanked the couch. A slick, white full-sized entertainment center was on the left side, blending into the off-white wall. It was filled mostly with books, a cd player and a small television set.
A large modern print by Sonia Terk-Delaunay hung over the black marble framed gas fireplace on the opposite wall, ruling the room with its bold, colorful circular shapes.
Outside there were spotlights on the grounds that ran to the small woods below, but it was really too dark to see there very well. The units like this in the back of the building had the much better view. The ones in front had balconies, too, but they overlooked the parking lot and street and the nearby houses and apartments.
The long living room backed against the entry they’d just come through and its closet, the small dining area on the right and the compact kitchen further right. A square, white tile-topped dining room table sat under a simple one-light chandelier to form the dining section. It seated four. A large colorful Gabriele Munter print hung on that wall. It was hard to not look at it. Continuing right, the dining room then opened into the short, narrow kitchen with light wood cabinets and compact almond appliances that had a breakfast bar opening the length of one side out into the living room with two light wood bar stools. A hallway was beyond the kitchen.
Sliding glass doors led from the living room onto the long balcony. There were separate balconies off the two bedrooms as well. That was unusual and a definite plus in Lonnie’s mind.
Lonnie led Ruby past the kitchen down the hall to the last room. She opened the door and put the suitcase inside. It was too dark outside to see much of a view from the balcony. The bedspread, drapes and bed pillow shams were in shades of blue and blue-green. Again, the furniture was light colored wood. Above the bed was an Emily Carr print called “Blue Sky”. It was vibrant.
“You like colorful artwork,” Ruby said. “I’m not sure I’d have guessed that.”
“Yes, I do,” Lonnie agreed. “Since I’m in the printing business, I keep an eye out for the very best prints. Does the artwork bother you?”
“No, I like them a lot.”
“That artist, Emily Carr, was from Canada, uh, Victoria. She painted a lot of the old abandoned Indian villages and the forests. I read somewhere that she thought a spiritual presence dwelt in the forest. Can’t you almost see it in there? I love her work.”
They both gazed at the forest painting with its brilliant opening of blue sky. “Yes, and it goes well in here, too. You’re in the printing business, you said?” Ruby glanced at the tall brunette then let her gaze wander over the room. Her eyes lit up at the sight of the bookcase and she moved to look at the titles, her hands reverently stroking the spines.
“Yes. We do all kinds of printing although we don’t specialize in artwork or anything like that. Mostly we do catalogues, brochures and advertising. That kind of thing.”
“Oh. And you like it?”
“Very much.” Lonnie glanced at the bed. “Let me change the bed, then you can climb in. Unless you want to take a soak in the tub first. Or even a shower. The master bath,” she pointed to the attached bathroom entry down off the glass wall, “only has a shower, but the bath next door between the two bedrooms,” she stepped back into the hall and opened the next door down, “has a tub, shower combination. Feel free, if you feel like it.”
“Oh, uh, okay.” Ruby moved from the bookcase to look in the bathroom off the hall. A plain shower curtain hung to one side and she noticed that the top outside rim of the tub had a small section with a built in handrail. “What if I bathe and sit on the couch for a while?”
“I guess that would be okay, but you really should try and follow the doctor’s orders. You could lie on the couch.”
“Yes, all right.” She was suddenly tired anyway. She would go to bed. She went into the bedroom and lifted her suitcase to the end of the bed and opened it up, rustling around to find her nightgown. Lonnie went to the linen closet in the hall and got out some clean sheets and pillowcases. She didn’t see a robe in the woman’s suitcase as she glanced over on her way back. She had a short one that should work for the small woman.
“There’s a robe on the back of the bathroom door, if you want one,” she said. It was the silk oriental robe her sister had given her that Cheryl always liked to wear. It had been in the wash when Cheryl left or she probably would have taken it with her. “I’m going to throw some tv dinners in to cook. Is chicken all right?”
“Yes. Thank you.” The woman went into the bathroom off the hall and shut the door. Lonnie could hear the water running in the tub. Cheryl had left some expensive bubble bath and she called to Ruby to use it if she wanted and light the fragrance candles, too. Vanilla. Her favorite. They were always pleasant and relaxing.
She moved the suitcase and quickly pulled off the used sheets, throwing them into the extra bedroom which was really her computer room. She’d use the bedding to fix her bed in there. She’d only slept in the sheets one day. It wasn’t like she had all kinds of time to do the laundry or all kinds of extra sheets either. She put the clean denim queen size sheets her parents had given her last Christmas on her bed then went back to the computer room.
She made the fold-out double bed in the tiny room, tucking the queen size fitted bottom sheet under to make it fit, and went back to get her pillow. This room had only the fold out bed, a desk with her computer and printer, an inexpensive outdoor plastic chair plus a hook-neck lamp and an old steamer trunk where she stored her old spy magazines, guest blankets and other sundry items. The small room was filled when the bed was opened. The art print in here was the only one Cheryl could stand of Lonnie’s collection--Rosa Bonheur’s Horse Fair.
Lonnie scotchtaped the doctor’s diet list to the inside of the kitchen cupboard door, reading what kinds of foods she needed to have on hand. “Lots of vegetables and fruits,” she muttered. She thought she heard the water draining from the tub and hurried down and brought everything else up from the car, putting her books and magazines on the bookshelf in her own bedroom, the one Ruby would be using.
She pulled some clothes to wear out of her closet and underwear from the chest of drawers and put them in the spare room. Maybe that hadn’t been the tub draining after all. The woman must really have enjoyed soaking. She’d been in there a long time.
“Are you about ready to eat?” She called at the bathroom door. “I’ll wait to put the dinners in the microwave.”
“Uh, just about.”
“Oh, okay.” Lonnie started to walk away.
“Yes?” Lonnie moved back outside the door.
“I, uh, I...even with the handrail I can’t get out of the tub. Can you come in and give me a hand?”
“Did you lock the door?”
“Oh, shoot. Yes, I did.”
Lonnie laughed. “Okay, don’t worry about it. I know how to open it. My nephew locked himself in there the last time he was here and I figured out how to undo the thing. It’ll take a minute, though.”
Lonnie went back and got the long screwdriver that she used for this kind of problem. She pried off the false cap on the doorknob and managed to remove the outside knob. Then she pushed and the knob on the other side so it dropped to the floor inside, startling the small blonde.
She brought the screwdriver carefully through the round hole, maneuvering it with the few fingers she could get through the opening. Once the length of the tool was inside, she turned it slowly in her fingers and used it to push back the lock. It took her a few tries.
She pushed the door and it opened until it hit the resistance of the knob on the floor. She continued pushing until she could get inside, but made sure to turn her back to the small, nude, pregnant blonde in the tub.
Ruby had drained the water out of the tub earlier but couldn’t get herself to a standing position. Fortunately the automatic heat lamp that came on with the overhead light kept the room warm and the flickering candles added a wonderful fragrance. The blonde sat with a towel she’d managed to reach covering all she could get it to cover, her arms crossed over her bosom and her knees up.
Lonnie kept her back turned, dropped her eyes so she didn’t look in the large wall mirror and handed Ruby’s nightgown behind to her. When the small woman had the nightgown pulled on as much as she could get it from a seated position, the tall brunette put one foot into the tub between the woman’s feet and helped pull her up by her hands, quickly cradling her to help her step out once she was upright.
That closeness shot Lonnie’s pulse into gear and she was hormonally aware of the warm body she was embracing. The feeling was bubbling inside her and she hoped the small woman wouldn’t look into the mirror and see her eyes nervously fluttering. Get a grip! she admonished herself but she was reluctant to let go of the short blonde.
“I knew better,” the small blonde said, red with embarrassment. “I just couldn’t resist a bath. My apartment only had a shower.” The blush filled her cheeks and neck. “I’ve already caused you enough trouble.”
Lonnie laughed, “You’ve been the best thing that’s happened all day.” Or all year, for that matter, she thought quickly. She grabbed the short tie robe and handed it to the blonde.
“Then you HAVE had a bad day,” the small woman chuckled, slipping her arms in the sleeves and finding it a good length although it barely fit around her middle with the loose tie.
“Only the very first part,” Lonnie grabbed up the screwdriver and door parts. “Now, doctor’s orders...we need to get you into bed. I’ll put your dinner in and bring it to you on a tray. Oh, wait a minute. Wait here.”
She ran into the master bath and grabbed the hair dryer for the small woman. “Maybe your hair should be dry first so you don’t catch cold.”
She left the woman to dry her hair and went into the bedroom to find the remote for the small set on the dresser. Ruby could watch television once she got in bed. It had been Cheryl’s favorite place for watching although she’d always complained about how small the set was. Or Ruby could read if she wanted.
The diet list didn’t have tv dinners listed but some of the things included were there. She popped the tv dinner in the microwave and stepped into the hall. She had some bottled water, but no juice.
“Would you be uncomfortable if I left you alone for a while to go get groceries?” It was late but a few of the stores stayed open till midnight. There were many things on the food chart that Lonnie didn’t have. In fact, Lonnie wasn’t much of a cook and tv dinners were what filled her freezer.
The small woman walked out of the bathroom with wide eyes. “Uh, could you go in the morning?”
Sunday morning. Why not? “Sure. Why don’t I do that instead?” She moved back and put the kettle on for caffeine-free tea, the kind she liked to drink at night. She tidied up the kitchen while she waited for Ruby’s dinner to be ready.
The small woman went in the bedroom and climbed into bed, placing the robe on the end. Lonnie came in with a bottled water and an empty glass and showed her how to use the remote.
“Or if you don’t want to watch television, feel free to read any of the books in the case that you want.” Lonnie stood fussing with the water. “Or the ones in the livingroom bookcase.”
“Thanks,” Ruby smiled, her attention going back to the books. “You have a good selection.” She’d already read most of them. However, she didn’t mention that.
Lonnie glanced over. “Thanks,” she muttered. “I like to read.”
“This is your room, isn’t it?” the blonde asked ruefully. “I don’t want to put you out of your own room, Lonnie. I thought you said you had a small extra room.”
“It’s all right. Really. I think this bed will be better for you. That’s all. I’m fine, really.” Lonnie rushed out to get the woman’s tray.
She brought in the tray and the small woman’s eyes lit up. “Chicken strips. My favorite. I usually cook my own, less fat and all, but these look delicious.”
Chicken had been in the meat/protein part on the list. Lonnie wasn’t sure how much a “portion” was, though. She’d have to read that part further. She smiled.
The brunette fussed for a while until the small woman ended putting the tray on the bed beside her. She couldn’t reach the food if she put it on her lap. Lonnie dropped the napkin over the woman’s broad belly and laughed. The microwave went off and she scurried out to finish preparing her own meal.
She dragged a dining room chair into the bedroom with her. “Do you mind if I join you in here?”
A smile lit up the blonde’s face, “No, please. I’d love the company.”
Lonnie went back to get her tray then folded her tall frame into the chair by the bed. She took a bite of her mashed potatoes. “You like to read, too, huh?”
“Yes. I was a literature major at college in Spokane.” Then Ruby put her hand on her belly and smiled. There was a sudden flash of sorrow there as well that Lonnie caught, but she said nothing. Ruby chewed her bite of food quietly then looked at Lonnie with another smile. “I try to keep up with the latest works.”
They ate together, chatting pleasantly about the trip to the hospital and how the pains finally just stopped. The tea was ready so Lonnie fixed it to go with small, individual containers of vanilla bean yogurt that she always bought to take in her lunch and canned peach halves she managed to find in the back of her cupboard. It made a respectable dessert. She was quite proud of herself at the small blonde’s pleasantly surprised look at the treat. This was about as gourmet as Lonnie got.
As they finished she noticed that the small blonde’s eyes were heavy and she picked up both trays and carried them out. She came back to say good night, leaving another bottle of cold water and emptying the old one into the glass that she left on the bedside table. The small woman was sound asleep.
Lonnie pulled the blankets up around the blonde and pushed the chair against the wall. In the kitchen she dug a small night light out from a kitchen drawer. She put it in the outlet just inside the bedroom and clicked it on. It lit the room with an eerie green glow, just enough to see where everything was. She used it when her nephew visited. It wouldn’t do for Ruby to be stumbling around during the night in a strange place trying to find the bathroom.
She looked once more at the sleeping face of the young woman. It felt right for Ruby to be here. She couldn’t remember when anything felt so right.
She took the door handles to the bathroom and began to put them back together again. While she worked she couldn’t help thinking about the blonde sleeping in the next room. There was such innocence and gentleness in her round green eyes and certainly determination and a deep...what? pain, sorrow maybe. How did you get to this point in your young life, Ruby? Though Lonnie didn’t think the woman was actually that much younger than herself, she still thought of her as a very young woman.
Then her thoughts became more practical. The small blonde would have to have access to health coverage. That was a must. This could be a difficult ending to her pregnancy and difficult often meant expensive which also could mean care denied or care neglected when you couldn’t pay. She’d always had health insurance herself so she wasn’t all that sure how things worked when you couldn’t afford it. She growled aloud when thinking of one of her pet peeves--universal health care, and why the richest nation in the world was one of the few civilized places on earth that didn’t have it! Damn politicians! At least the Clintons tried for it!
She could think of two possible ways the blonde might get coverage. Ruby’d said she was just passing through so she had no residency established and Lonnie wondered about that as a factor. She didn’t think it was of concern in the two ways she was thinking about.
First, there was the outside possibility of being domestic partners. Though it was a huge step, straight people had certainly married for less. She didn’t think there were residency requirements and she could get coverage that way on her own insurance if Ruby were willing. Lonnie’s company provided for domestic partners. But Ruby might be shocked or insulted to have Lonnie even suggest they become partners, nice though the thought was to Lonnie, so she set that option aside.
There was another way, maybe. A big maybe, but it wouldn’t be too physically taxing at this point. Lonnie could do any heavy stuff that needed doing. If Ruby was interested and thought she could, Lonnie might have to twist her boss’ arm really hard to make it happen. But it would solve one of the innumerable current problems at work. If it was possible...if Ruby could do it...or even wanted to try...and if Lonnie could convince her boss. That was the big “if”.
Lonnie lay in the guest bed, appreciating again why her parents hated using it. She heard the small woman get up and use the bathroom. She tossed and turned a few more times. The pull-out couch looked stylish but was unbelievably uncomfortable! She remembered now how bad it was from when she and Cheryl had had to use it the last time her parents came to visit last Christmas.
That was the one time they’d met Cheryl. Lonnie ended up sleeping on the floor and Cheryl slept on the couch itself...not made into a bed. Even that way was too short for Lonnie. And Cheryl had complained bitterly the whole time. How could Lonnie have forgotten?
The metal bar that ran across the middle of the bed dug into her body right through the small lumpy mattress that it held. It was a narrow double size and trying to avoid the bar by turning sideways left more body than there was bed. So that didn’t work. Especially at Lonnie’s height. Deciding she had spent far too long with this, she took her pillow and blanket and tried to find enough room on the floor.
She heard the small woman get up for the second time and wondered how often pregnant women had to pee. Of course, she was drinking a lot of water. She listened carefully to hear if she was moaning or having more pains, but only heard the flush of the toilet, the water running in the sink, then silence again.
Ruby made her way quietly back to bed, thankful for the nightlight, and snuggled down in the comfortable bed. It felt safe, a million times safer than her apartment had ever felt and safer even than the room in the house she’d shared. For the first time in a long time she felt the worry that seemed to haunt her every waking moment ease away. Thoughts of the tall brunette in the other room swirled through her mind and a soft smile crossed her lips before her eyes became heavy and she drifted into a relaxing, peaceful sleep. It felt wonderful having a protector.
After what seemed like many hours, Lonnie rose from the floor and slowly snuck down the hall. She listened outside the bedroom door and heard the soft breathing of the small woman. It wasn’t a snore. It was more of a purr.
Satisfied the woman was fine, she grabbed her pillow and blanket and went out to the couch in the living room to sleep. Her feet hung over the end, but it was more comfortable. It wasn’t long until she fell into a restless slumber.
Continued in Chapter 2
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