See chapter 1 for disclaimers


                                    When We Met

                                             by bsoiree

Chapter 4

Thanksgiving day was one of those cold but beautiful days. The sun shone and the crisp breeze let you know that winter was about. Lonnie was an early riser, but her mother had arisen ahead of her putting the huge turkey in the oven. They'd taken all the racks but one out of the oven so it would fit. Lonnie glanced at the huge bird. Many might have wondered why they'd buy such a large turkey for the four of them, but Lonnie had no questions. She knew her parents. The kitchen had the delicious scent of a holiday.

Lonnie went down to the gym to do a greatly needed workout. Her body felt alive with nerves. She followed her exercises with a quick swim and a cold shower. Still relatively early, she and her father produced stacks of stapled catalogues while they sat outside on the long balcony wrapped in their jackets, sipping coffee, softly chatting and stapling.

At last Ruby wandered out, showered and in her long-sleeved tee and nightgown, covered with her new robe. She looked surprisingly festive and dressed up. The red robe was just the right shade to bring out the strawberry highlights in her blonde hair. It pleased her greatly when Lonnie stared open-mouthed, Lonnie's mother made a fuss about how beautiful she looked and Lonnie's father readily agreed.

They all ate a light breakfast and her father went out onto the balcony to work on the crib. Lonnie loaned him an old sweat outfit and one of her old leather jackets now that the wind was picking up. It was her old bomber jacket and he looked very dashing and suave in it for an older man. She noticed her mother taking note. He happily sanded the crib, getting it ready to paint.

Lonnie vacuumed all rooms quickly then dusted while her mother worked in the kitchen. Then she sat by Ruby and set up the coffee table so that she could staple pages together. A football game was playing quietly on the set and they spent the whole time stapling and stuffing and looking earnestly at one another. The night before had felt perfect in many ways for both of them, Lonnie's hormones notwithstanding, and they were each trying not to show how much they were checking each other out.

Occasionally Lonnie's mother would join them to staple, slipping glances out at her hubby working on the balcony. He would come in from time to time and check on the game, so Lonnie turned the set so he could watch from where he was working. It felt....warm, familial, homey, traditional, relaxed, perfect.

At two in the afternoon her mother placed a call then declared that dinner was ready and that Mrs. Nelson would be right there.

"I wonder if Mrs. McHenry is alone today?" Lonnie said out loud.

"Well, heavens! We have enough to feed an army! Call her!" her mother exclaimed.

Lonnie placed the call and found Mrs. McHenry happy to be invited. She was going out of town but wouldn't be leaving till much later in the day. She'd be right up. Mrs. McHenry had a small studio condo also on the second floor. Lonnie's mother filled two paper plates and sent Lonnie with them to the office for whoever was on duty and the pool helper. "You tell them to tell the next people to come by here before they go on duty and fill a plate," her mother stated. "And come by for seconds if they want some."

During the next half hour it got very busy. The two older ladies came up and Lonnie's mother got them places to sit. Then she directed them to get a plate and help themselves. Ruby offered to get up and get her own plate. After all, she had such a nice robe. But Lonnie insisted that she stay on the lounger and she would bring her some food. Her mother had everything stretched out across the breakfast bar and dining room table like a buffet.

The two guests sat with their food while Lonnie went down the line, asking Ruby at every stop if she wanted some. Then she brought the full dish to her and went back to fill her own.

Her father came in to eat with them, his cheeks pink from the cold outside. He was pleased that he was now ready to paint and the wind had blown all the sandpapered residue away although he'd wipe it down to make sure. He didn't want to worry about dust getting into the fresh paint.

Everyone was impressed with what a wonderful find the crib had been. They all shopped at the thrift stores, at least occasionally, and knew you could find tremendous bargains there. "Some people just throw out the very best things," Mrs. Nelson exclaimed. Everyone agreed.

Halfway through the meal the buzzer rang and Lonnie's mother answered. "Nonsense," she said. "You come right on up here and eat. You can't be stopping at just any old place on the side of the road." She gave them the apartment number then went smiling back to the couch.

"Your daughter and son-in-law just arrived," she told Mrs. McHenry. "They apologized for being so early but I told them to hurry on up and join us."

"They're really early," the older woman smiled nervously. "We were going to try and grab a bite to eat late somewhere along the way because I'm riding back with them to Chehalis. They're having me stay through Christmas." She smiled sweetly. "The grandchildren will be home from college at Christmas and my daughter and her husband could leave the farm to come get me now. So I get a long visit this time."

The doorbell rang and Lonnie's mother hurried to open it. A middle-aged couple stood outside. She hurried them in, took their coats and looked around for a place for them to sit. "Grab a plate," she insisted. While they dished up their food, she checked places.

There were four dining room chairs and the couch. Ruby, of course, was on the lounger and Lonnie gave up her chair, putting it over where there was more room. "I'll sit on the floor here by Ruby, she smiled." They still had the breakfast bar stools but they were using them for small tables. Her few t.v. trays were placed around for convenience.

Everyone was pleased with the arrangement and soon they were all happily eating. Lonnie's mother kept up a wonderful chatter and it made everyone comfortable.

The food was delicious and they all felt they'd definitely overeaten. It would be a while before they had dessert. They drug out the catalogue pages and Lonnie started stapling, explaining that she was helping with Ruby's job and if the blonde did well enough, maybe she'd get health insurance as well as her salary. Ruby started stuffing envelopes and soon everyone wanted to help. They sat chatting and stuffing catalogues into the envelopes. Lonnie's mother helped staple. It seemed to make all the guests feel at ease to have their hands busy like that. The conversation flowed easily. They were amazed at what they learned about farming in Washington.

Lonnie's father got out the white paint and moved out to the balcony to begin to paint the crib. The son-in-law moved out to join him. Her father had an extra brush and Lonnie found an old heavy sweatshirt for the guest to pull on over his overalls. They were smiling and humming as they did so and Lonnie couldn't help but wonder again at how fortunate she'd been in the parents she'd gotten. They certainly sounded far better to her than what Ruby's parents sounded like.

She looked at her two parents again then at Ruby who was laughing and happily joining in the conversation. They both really liked Ruby, that was obvious. Lonnie smiled. She did, too. Then a mischievous smile crossed her face. Cheryl would have hated this with a purple passion. It was not nearly the fancy social soiree she would have wanted it to be. She would have said that no one important was here. Lonnie snickered. As far as she was concerned, nearly everyone important was here.

The crib began to look really good, the shiny white paint giving it a new appearance. Lonnie shook her head in wonder. Her parents had the knack of getting by with what they could afford. And their life was good. They really had an eye for turning one person's trash into their own treasure.

Her father's salary as a typesetter when she was growing up then later as an entrance Registrar at a local community college once the other job had dried up, had brought them a middle-class living. They prided themselves on saving, and had done very well over the years. They had sent all their children to college although Lonnie had dropped out halfway. Her part-time job at the printing shop became permanent and she loved it. She didn't feel like she needed a degree.

Her parents' saving had meant that their retirement was assured. It was their skill at salvaging treasures that had kept them more than fashionably comfortable.

The afternoon passed in contented endeavors, munching, stuffing envelopes, stapling, nibbling as they wished, then stuffing and stapling some more. Ruby fell asleep at one point then woke up and joined the conversation again and they all looked with amazement at the crib that was turning into a brand new looking item before their eyes.

Once the painting was done, the two men came in and washed up, stripping off the paint clothes before joining the others. They had pumpkin pie with whipped cream and fresh coffee. Except Ruby. She had to avoid the coffee. The company bid friendly but reluctant farewells to their guests and Lonnie's family remained quietly stapling and stuffing. It wasn't long before the doorbell rang and a couple of staff from both the pool and the office were there. Her mother had them grab plates. It was a perfect day in many ways.

Before it got too late they placed calls to Lonnie's brother's family in Virginia and her sister's family in California. Her parents talked to all the grandchildren as well as their children then Lonnie got on the phone and explained what she dared explain about Ruby and the baby and when the little bundle was due. It felt so good that Lonnie had to work not to feel sad that the whole story wasn't really true. They weren't partners as her family assumed.

Ruby fell asleep after that and they went back to their tasks. Lonnie and her father both stapled and her mother stuffed envelopes. Most of the stapled pages from earlier had already been stuffed by the company. They chatted softly about things in general, her mother's bridge club, garden club and choir practice, her father's model railroad in their attic and what her brother's family was up to. He lived much closer to them in Pennsylvania than either of the couple's two daughters.

When they climbed into bed that night, Lonnie didn't even ask, she simply began to rub Ruby's back, which Ruby again embellished with delightful moaning. Then they snuggled together and Lonnie kissed Ruby gently by the ear. Ruby smiled happily at the kiss, turned over and faced Lonnie. The baby's bulge placed their bodies further away, but Lonnie was able to softly stroke Ruby's hair letting her hand caress the blonde's neck under the cascade of blonde tresses. Her skin was soft and smooth and as she moved her face closer she noted it smelled distinctly like Ruby, warm and fresh.

Ruby held Lonnie's tee-shirt with both hands as they both looked at each other through the light of the night light. Lonnie found Ruby's lips entrancing and did not move her eyes from them as she swept a wisp of blond hair off the small woman's face.

Slowly with nothing but the treasured lips in mind, the brunette lowered her mouth and placed it gently over Ruby's warm, soft lips. With a sigh Ruby raised her lips to increase the pressure of the kiss. Lonnie felt her body strum with tension as the rise and fall of Ruby's enlarged breasts pushed against her and the blonde's lips slowly parted allowing the slow exploration of Lonnie's tongue.

They kissed, losing themselves in the heavenly feel of the closeness, the warmth, the softness, their yielding mingled breath and almost shy tongues. It did not escalate, both afraid to take that step yet. "You are so beautiful," Lonnie sighed when they reluctantly pulled apart.

Oh, Ruby thought the kiss was wonderful. It was not forceful and did not frighten her in the least. It was everything she had dreamed of and more. Her hand moved to gently stroke Lonnie's cheek, her beautiful, wonderful Lonnie. Lonnie moved her lips so that a soft kiss was placed on the palm of Ruby's moving hand, drawing a bashful smile from the blonde.

Ruby felt her body responding and paused. I must be careful. The doctor said...and that kiss...if we keep this up, it could be trouble. Ruby smiled lovingly at the brunette. "The baby..." she said softly.

A wide smile formed on Lonnie's face. She pulled back then dipped her head to place a gentle kiss on Ruby's tummy. "Good night, sweet little baby girl."

Once Lonnie straightened back up, Ruby sighed with happiness and laid her cheek against the brunette's chest, feeling Lonnie's long arms come around her to hold her in place. "G'night," Ruby muttered, knowing it was far less than either she or the brunette might want but as much as she dared venture. It surprised her that she was so ready and eager for Lonnie's touch. But she remembered that there was good reason why the doctor had said no sex.

"G'night, babe," Lonnie's soft alto voice flowed into her ear. "Sleep tight. Happy Thanksgiving."

"Mmm," Ruby hummed, "It's been my best ever." She couldn't remember ever having as wonderful a Thanksgiving as this. And that kiss! She could still feel it on her lips. Warmly embraced, they soon fell asleep.

Lonnie was glad it was Friday. Work was mayhem and her thoughts kept going back to the kiss she and Ruby had shared. It excited her in ways she had never experienced before. Surprisingly, it wasn't so much about sex. She and Cheryl had shared plenty of that, and passionate as it had been, it had never been as memorable as this one simple kiss.

Benny, however, was being a tyrant and it helped keep her on track. She wanted to lobby for Ruby's benefits again and maybe sweeten the pot with her surprise save, but the failure of one of their printing machines, and the delay while they fixed it, took all of Benny's attention and any good humor he might have accumulated from Thanksgiving. She decided her arguments would have to wait for Monday.

As Lonnie headed home from work, four people sat around the dining room table in the condo quietly discussing the latest top-selling books as they stapled catalogues and put them in envelopes. The political landscape was rife with tell-all offerings and evaluative tomes, of course, and three of the small group were trying to be gracious in their evaluations.

"Grandma," the teenage girl interrupted. "That lady's green face is staring at me."

All eyes moved to the Munter painting and Lonnie's parents chuckled. "It's a lovely face, actually," Lonnie's father said softly. "I've always liked it. And that big hat is so colorful." His gentle eyes swept the group, "They really did wear hats like that in those days, you know. It was very fashionable. My grandmother had one. And I've seen photos of them."

"It's the portrait of another artist," his wife added. "Lonnie says the lady who painted that helped start the expressionist "Blue Rider" group."

The young girl's eyes widened almost as large as those in the painting, "Did they ride motorcycles?"

Again they chuckled. Mrs. Shaeker reached over and touched the girl on the arm. "No dear, this was a long time ago. It was a group of artists that painted in an expressionist style. As I understand it, they simplified everything and used those bright colors and called themselves "der Blue Reiter". That's what Lonnie says. They were very revolutionary in their day."

"Oh," the girl replied, staring at the painting. She thought it was too bad they didn't ride motorcycles. That would have been really cool. Course, the hat would have blown off.

"I like pictures of flowers, myself," Mrs. Nelson added stiffly with her back to the painting. "The ones that look like real flowers."

Lonnie opened the door to find the group busily working and speaking softly. With her parents was Mrs. Nelson and her teenaged granddaughter. Several boxes were there and she decided her father must have dug some up somewhere. From the number of finished envelopes in the boxes at their feet, she knew all four had to have been working at it all day without stop.

"Hi, how are you doing?" Lonnie put down her purse and keys and hung up her jacket in the closet.

"Shhh, dear," her mother said. "Ruby's sleeping. We made her go into the bedroom and lie down. We're just helping her. She worked so hard today, poor dear. We've had a little bite and now we've all been sitting chatting. This is Mrs. Nelson's granddaughter, Judy."

The young girl said, "Hi."

Lonnie answered, "Hi." She switched her gaze to Mrs. Nelson and added another "Hi," which was answered in same.

Her mother continued in a soft tone, "I ran into them this morning in the laundry room. When Theresa said her book club was meeting at her place today and she wasn't at all ready for them, well we just invited them all here. The folks might as well staple and stuff and talk books as easily as just talk books. So the group came up and graciously agreed to help Ruby out. They were marvelous!"

"Stayed about four and a half hours," Mrs. Nelson smiled proudly. "That's a new record, I think." Apparently the members took great pleasure in how long the meetings lasted when they got to each individual's home. Mrs. Nelson had just shot to the top of the list for who could hold the longest meeting.

"Well, my, they discuss interesting selections!" Lonnie's mother smiled widely at Mrs. Nelson.

"We've made your parents and Ruby honorary members," Mrs. Nelson said proudly. "Course, anyone can join, but this was special."

"And we've been chatting up a storm since the others left," Lonnie's mother stated.

"It was nice of Roger to bring all those folding chairs up from the center downstairs. And taking them back down again on that big wheeled cart of his when we were done....that's a fine feature of this place," Lonnie's father added.

"My, yes," her mother agreed. "He earned every bit of that second dinner I sent down to him. Actually, this is a very nice place to live. So many amenities."

"We like it here," Mrs. Nelson smiled.

"I like the pool," the teenager grinned. "I'm going swimming tonight."

"Her mother lets her stay sometimes when school is out," Mrs. Nelson said softly. She owned a one-bedroom unit on the front side of the building. Her granddaughter slept in a sleeping bag on the couch when she visited. "We'll go ahead and head out now, Liz. We're going down swimming in a bit. Adult swim starts at six thirty and that includes teenagers if they're over fifteen." Then she added as an afterthought, "She just qualifies. I watch."

She and her granddaughter finished stuffing the catalogues they held into envelopes and got up. "Bye Robert. You folks be sure to write when you get back home. Tell me what you think of that Presidential novel. And keep us up to date with what's happening."

Lonnie's mother walked them to the door. "Bye, Theresa, bye, Judy. We will. You both write us, too. You have our address and our email address. Thank you for the help!" She waved and came back from the door.

"It's been fun, hasn't it, Robert?"

"It has," he replied with his characteristic warm smile.

"We kept your father at a wicked pace with his stapling today, but I noticed that Margaret wielded a devilish stapler, too," her mother chuckled. "She was a bit on the competitive side. But then that book crowd is quite good at this, actually."

"It was nice to see some fellas in the group, too," her father said.

"How many people were here?" Lonnie stood in place and gazed around the living room. The furniture did seem to be out of place.

"How many were here, father? I had you go buy four cheesecakes to serve them. Uh, about fifteen altogether with us, wasn't it?"

"Eighteen, dear," her father smiled. "Yes, eighteen."

Lonnie glanced at all the boxes. "Wow! You guys got a lot done! Benny's gonna have a stroke!"

She looked at the small stack of papers in the center of the table. "Is that all that's left?"

"Yes," her mother smiled.

"There's a couple more boxes of finished ones in the bedroom," her father added. "Ruby was determined to do a good job but we made her go in and lie down. We put the other boxes in there out of the way, too. There wasn't room in here with all those people." Her mother turned to the closet, getting both their coats. Lonnie looked at them in surprise.

"Now that you're home, your father and I are going to go shopping." She looked at the clock. "We have plenty of time. They stay open late from Thanksgiving till Christmas. We've just had the best time this time. Ruby's a wonderful girl."

"Yes, she is," her father smiled. It was obvious she had won their hearts. Just like mine, Lonnie thought, then realized that was true. It was only a week tomorrow since they'd met and already Ruby had won her heart completely. And she wasn't even sure when that had happened.

Her father helped her mother into her coat then slipped on his own. "And she's very much in love with you," her mother smirked at Lonnie.

"What?" Lonnie asked, shocked. In love with me? What had Ruby said?

"I left you some dinner in the oven," her mother continued. "The last of the leftovers. With all of us, we've done some serious damage to that turkey and trimmings. Oh, Ruby has already eaten. She's napping so let her rest."

"Uh, all right," Lonnie watched them walk out, leaving her standing where she had been when she came in. What had Ruby said that made them think she was in love with her?

They waved and were gone.

Lonnie looked toward the bedroom and smiled. They think she's in love with me? Wouldn't that be wonderful?!

She moved quietly down the hall to check on Ruby. She was sound asleep and another two large boxes of folded "Specials" reports were there, one pushed under the crib, which had now been squished into the bedroom.

Lonnie shook her head with a quirky grin. She is so beautiful. I sure hope they're right! She looked at the filled boxes. Unbelievable! All these were done! She was turning to leave when something else caught her eye.

The book. The one about lesbian sex. It had a small bookmark sticking out from the end. Someone had been reading it or at least looking through it. She doubted that her parents had. She looked down at the sleeping figure. My, my. Better and better, she grinned.

She went out, turned on the television so it was low and gaped at the filled boxes open mouthed. "Only my mother would bring in a book club to stuff New Year's ‘Specials' catalogues." She shook her head in wonderment.

She ate her dinner and then spent the next couple of hours finishing up the last of the catalogues. Every last one of them was done. Heck, her company should hire her mother the next time they had an emergency! She'd organize a ladies' tea and save the day!

Lonnie knew that all the time everyone had worked would go on Ruby's pay card. She didn't have to figure it. It was a job rate. They all knew at work how many man hours it took to get a special catalogue out. It would keep Ruby on the part-time payroll till the first of the year. More importantly, it would keep her insured, if she could get Benny to approve the insurance. The salary wouldn't come close to making up for the amount that Ruby'd had stolen from her. It was basic starting salary, but it would be something.

She heard the toilet flush and knew Ruby was up. She felt her heart rate increase. The blonde came wandering out wearing the robe Lonnie's mother had gotten her. Her hair was tousled and her eyes still looked sleepy, but she also had a look of natural beauty to her that made Lonnie suck in a breath.

"Hey," the small blonde said softly. "You're home." The largest smile crossed her face. She moved to the lounger and sat down, looking shyly then at Lonnie. Her cheeks had a soft flush and there was that certain almost glow about her.

"Yes. Do you feel all right?" Lonnie felt herself staring and looked away toward the boxes. "You guys did all those catalogues."

"I feel good today. Must be that glorious Thanksgiving feast." The small blonde found herself looking steadily at the tall brunette, the memory of their last night's kiss firmly etched in her mind. Was it as mind blowing for her as it was for me? Ruby wondered. She felt the warmth of the soft blush in her cheeks from thinking about it.

She watched Lonnie looking at the boxes and drew her attention back to the group that had visited today. "It was an interesting group." She smiled sweetly. "And they read such interesting things..mysteries, political biographies, Pulitzer prize winners and thrillers." She yawned and stretched. "Would you bring me some more catalogues to stuff, please?"

"No," Lonnie said, turning to face her once again.

"No?" Ruby looked to see if the tall woman was angry or something. "I can't stuff?"

"No," Lonnie repeated. They're done! Every last one!" She smiled widely.

"Really? That's fantastic! But now I don't know what to do while I'm lying around."

Lonnie moved over much closer and lowered her voice. "You're supposed to be resting." She gazed down lovingly at the small blonde.

Ruby swallowed and her heart began to pound. Oh, dear heavens! We'd better keep this less personal. She didn't trust her body to react properly with the tall beauty and the doctor's words echoed in her head..."Yes. Oh, I know, bring the laundry basket, will you? I'll show you the cute baby outfits your mother bought."

Lonnie paused. "Okay, where is it?"

"It's in our room." Then she realized what she'd said and changed it quickly, "Uh, in your room." A slight blush crept up from her neck.

"No, Ruby, you were right the first time. It's "our" room." The way she said that sent tingles down Ruby's back and a soft smile ruffled the lines around her deep green eyes. Our room, she thought to herself. Lonnie's and mine. The whole idea made her body feel suddenly warm.

Lonnie got up and brought out the laundry basket. She sat next to Ruby who sat up to show her outfit after outfit. They were darling. And they were in various sizes.

"Your mother said the baby will outgrow her clothes so quickly, she wants her to have full sets of clothes in the next several sizes."

"That's a good idea. Where's the baby's picture?" Lonnie asked, looking around. She wanted to take another quick peek.

"Your mother put it on the refrigerator door."

Suddenly the apartment door opened and they heard voices in the hall. "If we turn it, we should be able to get it in all right." That was Lonnie's father.

They mutely watched the door as a full sized changing table with drawers underneath for clothes storage began to make its way into the room. It was easily the size of a tall, wide chest of drawers. The back guiding it in belonged to Donny who had been working at the front desk when Roger went home. Lonnie's father was on the other end with the hand truck. Behind them stood Lonnie's mother carrying a huge plastic bag and a pail with a lid and a step-on opener.

She came in behind them and looked at the two sitting in the living room watching without saying a word. "It's like brand new, girls! It's in wonderful shape! We'll just have to wash it down. I know the new ones are smaller and more compact, but these older changing tables are much better built and made to last through more than one child...uh, if that's what you want."

Ruby and Lonnie shot startled looks at one another but said nothing.

The older woman followed the men into the bedroom although Lonnie couldn't imagine how they could all fit in that small area.

"Thanks, Mr. Shaeker," Donny grinned, stuffing the twenty into his pant pocket as he walked back into the living room. "I'll bring the other right up."

Lonnie and Ruby looked at each other in wonderment. The other?

"Happy holidays, Don," her father called happily.

"You, too, sir," the young fellow called back, letting himself out of the condo.

"Oh," her mother exclaimed walking back out of their room, "these other stores had such darling things. Wait till you see them." She came back out still carrying the pail and the bag.

"What's the pail?" Lonnie asked.

"A diaper pail, of course," her mother answered putting it down then moving to the couch where she plopped down and brought the bag to her lap to open it. "Most people use the throw aways, but they're not as good for the environment. Wait till you see these, Ruby, you are going to be so surprised! They are just precious!"

One after the other she brought out baby outfits, held them up then placed them on the coffee table. "Uh? Uh?" she asked with each outfit. Ruby ewed and ahhed most appropriately. And Lonnie nodded. Ruby and her mother seemed to have such an affinity for each other.

"Those are really cute, Mom," Lonnie exclaimed. They really were darling.

A knock at the door brought her father from the bedroom where he had been scrubbing down the chest with a disinfectant cleaner. "Ahh, there it is," he smiled, opening the door.

Donny came in carrying a large wooden rocking chair.

"Better put it in the living room for the time being," her father said. "We're out of room in there. Don't forget, we're going to move that chest down to storage tomorrow."

"Sure thing, Mr. Shaeker." The strapping young man placed the rocker in a free spot at the end of the long living room. "There ya go." Donny waved and smiled on his way out the door. Lonnie's father went back in to finish washing down the changing table.

"A rocker," Ruby sighed. Lonnie looked at the small woman who was truly overawed. "It's perfect."

"Yes, dear," Lonnie's mother turned to look at it. "And it is comfortable. I made Lonnie's father sit and rock and another young couple that went by. Everybody agreed. It is comfortable."

"How can I thank you enough, Mrs. Shaeker?"

"Well, first, call me Mom, not Mrs. Shaeker. Please. You're a part of the family now."

Ruby shot a look at Lonnie, who only smiled warmly.

"Of course," Ruby replied. "It's all just so marvelous." Her lip quivered and she added quietly, "I think I might cry."

Lonnie's mother was up in a flash hugging the small but bulbous woman. "There, there, dear," she said, rubbing Ruby's back. "It's just your pregnant hormones. It's all right. Besides, it is so exciting planning for the blessed occasion. Just think, it won't be long until a brand new tiny voice will be heard in this world for the very first time. Your blessed child's."

"Yes," Ruby's muffled answer came from Mrs. Shaeker's shoulder, "She is a blessed child. Thank you. You've been so wonderful." Her green eyes were brimmed with unfallen tears as she pulled away.

Ruby's mother stood. "Well, let's have some pie, what do you all say? Pie, Father?" she called. She walked back to the kitchen to dig out what was left of the pie and dish it up.

Ruby thought of her own parents and how ugly they had been about everything. She chewed her lip and rubbed at her eyes. To have called the baby a bastard and her a harlot and told everyone they wanted nothing to do with either of them, it was too much. She couldn't keep the tears from falling. It hurt, it hurt plenty, but she was going to make her own way in the world without them. Her baby didn't need to be hurt by them. So why was she crying, she asked herself? Was it hormones?

Lonnie put her arm around Ruby and drew her close. "It's all right. I have you, hon," she said tenderly. She gently rubbed Ruby's back.

"Oh, Lonnie," the small blonde answered with a sniff. "It's just so overwhelming."

Thinking she was talking about Lonnie's parents, the brunette smiled, "Whirlwinds, I told you," she whispered. It was comforting and soothing being in Lonnie's arms.

"Yes," Ruby whispered, wiping away her tears. She realized Lonnie had meant the Shaekers. "You were right. Wonderful whirlwinds." They sat together for a few minutes until Lonnie asked if Ruby would like her feet rubbed. She knew the small woman's feet tended to swell and had to be uncomfortable. Ruby smiled bashfully, hating to leave the embrace. She laid back and Lonnie slid down, pulling the blonde's small feet into her lap and tenderly began rubbing out the sore spots.

The tall brunette hoisted the fallen blanket from the floor and placed it gently over the small woman before going back to rubbing her feet. She received a warm smile in return. Lonnie couldn't help thinking how Ruby looked so defenseless and vulnerable with her lip quivering. Not only was she gorgeous, she was more brave than Lonnie could even imagine. I can't imagine all she's gone through. Lonnie ached for Ruby's anguish.

This small woman had bravely faced it all...the attack, the condemnation, the rejection of family and friends, the knowledge of an unchosen pregnancy. It had upended her whole life, yet she was bravely fending it all off in order to make a better life for herself and her child. And until now she had been alone in doing so. Lonnie vowed she would not be facing such difficulties alone ever again if she could help it. And if Ruby wanted it that way.

Ruby watched the tall beauty tenderly rubbing her aching feet. She was so attracted to this woman. That was a turn of events her parents would certainly never have understood. But what did she care what they thought? They'd never really understood her anyway. Not ever. And they had already voiced their opinions and made their own decisions. They were out of her life. Forever. And though it made her sad, it also filled her with anger. Sighing to relieve her inner tension, she looked up.

She smiled at Lonnie and fell into the depths of her comforting, deep blue eyes. At this point they were soft and warm like her father's. Ruby reached out and slid her hand into Lonnie's and their fingers intertwined. Lonnie pulled the blanket over her feet, moved closer and they sat together, comfortingly holding hands, letting their eyes speak for them.

When Lonnie's mother brought the pie, they all ate quietly. Then Ruby put her hand lightly on Lonnie's nearby thigh and shut her eyes, soon falling asleep. Lonnie stayed in place until her mother softly called her in to put some clean bowls on the top shelf. Though a tall woman at five eight, she didn't have Lonnie's height and couldn't easily reach the top shelves in Lonnie's cupboards.

"Your cupboards go clear to the ceilings," Lonnie's mother remarked, "there're no soffits."

"Making use of available space," Lonnie suggested. "Small kitchens."

"Smart," her mother agreed. Then she added, "She's a wonderful girl."

"I think so," Lonnie's face lit at the remark.

"You'll need to get her a stepstool."

That night Lonnie instantly gathered Ruby to her in an embrace when she got into bed. The small woman was still a little teary about everything. "Shhh, it's all right," Lonnie said. "Everything is just as it should be now."

And that was precisely how Lonnie felt. This was exactly as it should be. With Ruby in her arms she felt thrillingly alive, like everything else in her past had been prelude and this was the symphony. It was as though some giant piece to a life-fabric puzzle had just fallen into place. She gently stroked the pregnant woman's hair then soothingly worked her hands down Ruby's back, gently loosening the tightened muscles before moving her lips to meet the blonde's neck.

Ruby struggled around to meet her and brought her lips eagerly to Lonnie's, "Oh, Lonnie, you have no idea how you make me feel. I wasn't sure I could ever feel this way again."


"Is that good or bad?" Lonnie pulled back slightly then moved ahead till their lips touched, losing herself in a kiss. The connection was immediate, and Ruby's soft moan shot tendrils of fire through the tall brunette. They held the kiss as long as they were able.

"It's good," Ruby sighed finally and gave the tall woman a gentle squeeze. She shut her eyes and buried her face in Lonnie's shoulder. It had been quite a day and she was pleasantly exhausted. But for some reason the thought of Norman Faradeen Smith trying to find her came unbidden and she shuddered. Lonnie frowned. "What's wrong, hon? Are you cold?"

"No. Lonnie? Remember you said something about your friend checking on the, uh, the man I dated? You said she was a private investigator?"

"Yes. Her name's Nyri and she's really more of a corporate detective. Although she's just finished her training and hasn't put her company together yet. But she's very good. Did you decide it was all right?"

"Do I have to talk to her? I don't think I'm ready to do that, but, uh, maybe you could. See, uh, Nicole mentioned something when I talked to her on the phone the other day and it scared me, sort of."

She talked to Nicole? There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but this is the first time she's mentioned it. "What did Nicole say, hon?"

"She said he came back to the cafe asking about me after I'd left town."

"What?! The unmitigated nerve....!"

"I...I know. It scared me, uh, kinda. And I thought maybe it might be better to know who he really is and where he might be instead of always worrying that he's gonna find me."

"I won't let him come near you, Ruby. I promise. With your permission, I'll call Nyri and start her searching."

"It won't be made public, will it? I don't want that. I don't want the baby to ever know."

"I know you don't, and, no, it won't be made public. She's very discreet."

"I'll pay as soon as I get my first check."

"No problem." Lonnie smiled. She knew Ruby's check was not going to come close to covering the retainer. After all, Ruby was earning minimum wage. Nyri was a socially prominent, wealthy young woman with good business savvy and more than exceptional computer knowledge. In fact, when someone said "hacker", Nyri was the closest she knew of anyone being talented enough. She would not be inexpensive. But this was Ruby's safety they were discussing and this guy sounded dangerously impudent. Nyri'd be better than most out there. Lonnie had been friends with her in high school and trusted her implicitly.

"I think maybe it would be wise, don't you?" Ruby chewed her lip.

"I do. Why don't I take care of it for you? Do you trust me to? May I have your permission to explain your situation to her?"

"Yes." Ruby felt her body relaxing. She trusted the brunette completely. And it felt so good in Lonnie's arms...too good maybe. She felt the now all too common feeling of her body reacting to the tall woman's nearness. But she was so tired. She snuggled against Lonnie and shut her eyes.

"G'night, beautiful," Lonnie crooned sexily.

"Mmm," Ruby replied, trying to forget her overwhelming attraction to this woman and give herself over to her weariness. All aches and pains seemed to fade away. The baby had been restless all day, but finally had settled down. "Remember the doctor said no sex," she mumbled sleepily. Ruby was physically uncomfortable so much of the time, that now that she wasn't for the moment, the fatigue seemed to take over. Her breathing settled into a steady pattern lulling her asleep.

Lonnie's eyes were wide open! No sex! Does she want sex? Does she want our relationship to move in that direction? If so, we'll have to go very slowly at a pace Ruby finds comfortable. There's a lot to overcome. But the thought was inordinately exciting. And Lonnie's heart was lost. The brunette was positive without a doubt that she could never love anyone any more than she already loved Ruby. Now that she'd held her, she was sure that without Ruby in her arms, life would loose its meaning.

With a tender sigh she murmured, "Sleep, sweet love." A low throb of passion hummed through Lonnie's body, but she could set that aside, of course. Ruby was more than a love object, she was a friend, an ally, a confidant, a protectee, a potential partner. For Ruby she would do anything. To handle those urges she would get up early and do another round of punishing exercises followed by a cold shower. It helped...some.

This was so different from how she'd felt with any of her prior relationships, long-standing or short. She'd certainly felt desire with all, and in Cheryl's case that was just about all that she'd felt, but this was so much more than that. In fact, she'd set desire aside without question if that's what they needed to do till Ruby was ready, physically and emotionally, however long it might take.

She'd felt friendship with most of the others, too, and was still friends with most of the women she'd gone out with. But, again, this was deeper. This was more than friendship. This was yin and yang, heart's desire and soul's home. This was how she saw life, how she'd always seen life without knowing who fit in the empty place. With Ruby by her side, they could meet whatever life brought them. Ruby was the fit, the missing piece.

She shut her eyes with a smile. She could only hope Ruby felt the same way. Soon Morpheus claimed her as well.


Saturday morning Lonnie slid out of bed early, got in her warm-ups and went downstairs to the exercise room. Well, at least she'd be in great shape by the time this was all settled. She returned to find her father up. She showered and changed and he helped her load the many boxes of stapled catalogues into her jeep.

"I'm not kidding, my boss is gonna stroke out," she laughed as they piled the last boxes into the back.

"Will this be enough for him to sign Ruby on so she gets health benefits?"

"It better be, or I'll shake him upside down till all his change falls out of his pockets!"

Her father laughed. "I think you could, too. You've kept in shape, exercising every morning like that. We're so proud of you for everything."

"Thanks, Daddy." She felt a little guilty as she closed the lid on the back. If he only knew! Oh well, she WAS staying in shape, no matter what the reason. "Better get these over there. They were supposed to be in the mail the Monday after Thanksgiving. Now it looks like they'll still be able to make the deadline! Benny can seal them, though, and take care of postage. Right after I bring out the paddle cart to resurrect him!"

"Your mother still has some shopping to do, but we'll wait here with Ruby till you get back. Mother can call her old friends while we wait. She said she didn't think we'd have time to visit any of them this trip like we did last year, but she did want to call and say ‘hi.'"

"Okay. It shouldn't take long." Her parents had spent most of their time visiting their friends on the last trip. Cheryl didn't go out of her way to make them feel very welcome so they didn't stick around much. And Lonnie knew her mother liked to do their Christmas shopping here because there was no sales tax.

She headed toward work, wondering what they'd do when her parents went home tomorrow. There were still three and a half weeks till Ruby's due date and she really shouldn't be left alone. And her mother's cooking was so much better. Maybe she could hire Mrs. Nelson to stay with Ruby. She wondered what kind of cook she was.

Lonnie saw the building ahead and switched her thoughts to the business at hand. She knew exactly how she was going to handle her boss. She glanced at the cars in the lot. A number of folks were here this Saturday. Getting out the shipping on the Deltin Brothers rush order, she guessed.

"Hey guys, c'mere," she called through the large open loading bay to a couple of fellows in the shipping department. These young guys were the biggest flirts and teases in the whole building. She pointed to the boxes in her car. "I need these put up in conference room 5 without Benny knowing. Got it? Right on the 5."

"Sure thing, Ms. Shaeker! Hey, when you gonna come down from the heights up there and give us regular Joes a chance at some eye candy? You know, wear some of those high, high heels and a knock-your-socks-off dress and give us all a high class thrill," Henderson suggested, wheeling his hand truck to her jeep. "Then we could all die happy."

"Yeah," Droverly added following along with his own hand truck. He stopped, shut his eyes and grinned, "I can see it now...a red, no, a black dress, skin tight like Denny wore in that fashion show/sing fest we put on for the office picnic in the park last year...only you could lose the boa. Remember that? He did that torch song right after the can can line. You were there, weren't ya? He was wondering what to do with that dress now and I gotta tell ya, it'd look fab-u-lous on you. Whoa, it was cut clear down to here. And imagine ravishingly feminine legs in those net stockings he had with those garters. Oh man, what a dream that is!" He put a hand on his chest and groaned. "Be still my pounding heart." Then he continued on.

Suddenly Lonnie, who was walking with them, stopped and gasped, "Oh, my gosh!" Her hand came to her mouth. Both men stopped in their tracks and gazed at her, mouths open.

"What?" Henderson asked, alarmed. "What's wrong?" Both young fellows looked around the lot, but saw nothing amiss.

"I didn't know," Lonnie whispered. They both leaned in closer to hear her. She made her eyes as wide as she could, letting her innocent gaze fall over both fellows.

"What?" Henderson asked again, alarm still in his voice.

"Yeah, what is it? Whatsa matter?" Droverly asked with concern.

"I wasn't aware," she breathed, just low enough now that they had to lean in even more to hear her. She paused then spoke in a much louder voice, "that hell had frozen over." She snorted, gave them each eye contact and moved on to her jeep. "So get to work, boys," she grinned. "Cause those fantasies of yours ain't gonna happen in your lifetimes. But it's always good to think creatively." She lifted the back lid. She'd leave it unlocked. She wouldn't be gone that long.

"She got you there, Henny," Droverly laughed, nudging his partner.

"You, too, Dufus," Henderson grinned. His eyes still tracked her gorgeous tush as she headed with her long strides for the entrance. Both young fellows paused to observe. "What a beauty," Henderson sighed.

"Yeah, tall and gorgeous," Droverly agreed, his eyes following her progress, "With blue eyes to die for. And she doesn't even know how hot she is."

"Oh, I dunno. Maybe she knows it. But I don't think she swings our way, that's what I think."

"Huh?" Droverly asked. "Whadda ya mean?" Henderson raised a brow and looked back at him without replying. "Do ya mean like....two women...together?" Drover asked incredulously.

"Yeah," Henderson replied.

Droverly looked across the lot at where Lonnie had entered the building. "Gods, my favorite fantasy."

"Yeah, I know," Henderson agreed, before they began to lift boxes from her car. "Mine, too."

Lonnie took the freight elevator to the office level and walked out into Payroll. "Did you get that name ready to add to the insurance list like I asked?" She popped her head into the room and watched Muriel look up with surprise.

"It's Saturday. What'cha doin here today? You aren't working on the Deltin Brothers order are ya?"

"No. That one wasn't mine, thank heavens. I'm takin' care of my own business. Did you put down the name....Ruby Jenningsford?"

"Yeah, but Benny hasn't approved it yet for insurance."

"You said that part-timer he had in here that screwed everything up didn't get to take his health benefits with him when they canned him, right?"

"Yeah, that's right."

"So his benies are just sitting there already in budget. Right?"

"Yeah, sortta. But Benny has to okay your girl. I can't just put her name in for insurance."

"He will. It'll be a job rate, not hours. I listed the standard hours for the job here. Roll them out ... you know how to do it. Just hasta go to the first of the year. That's the agreement. Even if she finishes before then, break the hours up to insure benefits to Jan one. I'll have her sign for it. You pay her each pay period. You know how the contract goes."

"Yes, a job rate with no early finish penalty." Muriel looked over her glasses at Lonnie. "But don't forget Benny's approval."

"I haven't. Cut an insurance card for her and I'll pick it up before I leave. Benny'll call it down as approved."

"Okay, but I have to cut it up if he doesn't call down. And you'll owe me lunch for the extra work in that case."

"Gotcha. It's retroactive to the day she started, remember."

"I got it," Muriel gave a little nod back.

Lonnie moved off to the printing floor and quickly checked the progress of her own rush order for the next week before she took the elevator to the top level. She moved down the hall past conference room 5. She peeked in. The boxes were there. She moved on to the room at the end.

"Hey, Benny, where are ya?"

"Who wants to know?" Benny growled walking out of the restroom drying his hands on a paper towel. He aimed for the basket and shot, just getting it inside.

"Nice shot. You ready to take the crap from the main office on Monday?"

"Oh God, don't remind me!"

"What would it be worth to you to have your worthless hiney pulled out of the fire on this one?"

"Whatcha mean? Ain't no way!" He looked seriously at Lonnie, who just grinned back in return. "How you gonna do that? They gotta be corrected, printed and put together. You're not doing that with one part-timer, I don't care how good she is. Not unless you plan to do the fixin' and printin' yourself and she plans to work night and day without stop putting ‘em together. And she still couldn't get ‘em done."

"I have my ways."

"Yeah? What do you want for "your ways"?"

"I told ya..I want standard job rate...strung out to keep benefits to the first of the year. No overtime. In lieu of overtime, I want full benefits to January one. And I want it all retroactive to when my part-timer first started....which was last Monday before Thanksgiving."

He stood staring at her then ran his hand across his grizzled chin. "And you can magically make the New Year's ‘Specials' catalogue ready to send out on Monday? It would be a damn miracle if you could."

"That's me, the miracle maker!"

"What you gonna do, fix it and run it off now yourself then hire a bunch of part-timers to get it done for ya over the weekend and put the job rate on one card? Cause a job rate can only go on one card. And they'll be workin' all night."

"What do you care what I do? Course, if you're not interested..." she turned and started down the hall.

"Hold on, dammit! Hold on!"

Lonnie stopped with a smirk but didn't turn around. She knew her boss so well.

"You're running the new pages and you'll bring them in early Monday morning stapled, stuffed and ready to go?" he called to her. "Buyer's envelopes have to be in there, too, ya know!"

"Something like that. Let's just say they'll be ready. But you have to approve it today cause I'm here and ready to pick up the card."

"I could do that myself, ya know. I could fix it and run it off then hire a bunch of part-timers," he called to her. "It would keep the main office off my neck." He paused for a minute, giving the idea a little thought for the hundredth time in the last week.

"You can't afford it, Benny. And you don't have the time. You'd have to pay for the extra help out of your own pocket. How many people would you have to hire to have no overtime? Or would you pay time and a half for overtime for fewer workers..all on your dime? You'd lose out either way. And when would you do it with this other rush order going out? You could redo it then print late into the night and farm it out, but there again, you don't have the budget or the time. You'd be well past deadline and well over budget."

"Yeah, maybe," he grumbled.

"Maybe, nothing. You know that's the case. All I want is insurance and a job rate with no early finish penalty for my part-timer. That's it."

"A job early finish penalty?"

"With insurance. Yep, that's it. That jerk you let go got a severance package without benies. They're still in budget. Contractually, it's legal. No overtime. Benefits to January one. You just have to let the L.A. office know."

"Yeah, okay."

"Call it down. I'll wait." She turned and stayed in place watching him. He was a nice guy and she liked working for him. He wasn't a pushover, though. She didn't know why everybody was always so afraid of him. He was nothing but a big grouchy teddy bear. You just had to pretend he was only saying "blah blah blah" when he was hollering and getting his face all red. Everybody took everything he said so literally.

She heard his footsteps leading through the mostly empty corridor to his office phone. She heard his voice but couldn't make out his exact words.

"Okay, hotshot. Done deal!" he called down the hall. "Your part-timer better have it ready on Monday or it's your butt in the sling! We're gonna see what you're made of on this one, Shaeker." He crossed his fingers and prayed she could save his behind, but he didn't really have much hope of that. There was just too much that had to be done.



"Check Conference room 5."

Again she turned to look out the window but heard his footsteps heading hesitantly to the conference room. She waited. Suddenly she heard "HOLY SHIT! YES!" She heard the sounds of his foot steps running in the hall. She turned in time to see him right before her. He grabbed her head and planted a big wet smacker on her lips. He had an envelope in his hand.

"You have saved the day again, God bless you, Tiny Tim!" he slapped her on the back. "How in the fuck did you pull this off? Hot damn!" He looked inside the envelope and there was the brochure plus buyer's envelope.

"Tiny Tim?" She laughed, raising a brow. She stood easily as tall as he. "There's more, my friend," she continued. "Take a look at the catalogue. I was able to save ya half."

He pulled the brochure out and looked at the layout, his eyes widening at how she had maneuvered the pictures to fit using two columns, leaving print space on either side and tightening everything up by photoing the whole thing, resizing a fraction and replacing rather than using smaller fonts. Precision work at its finest! It fit exactly with no room left over. Everything was there and it looked extremely professional.

"How'd ya get the software ta let ya do this?" he asked.

"I have my ways."

"Damn!" he murmured, his eyes not leaving the paper.

"Only had to reprint half. Not bad, huh? Saved you between ten and fifteen thou."

His eyes scanned the report with his mouth wide open. He looked at every page. "Damned if you're not a miracle worker after all, Shaeker!" A huge smile spread across his face. "I had nearly ten thou in other savings I had to hold back to soften this blow. SHIT! We're coming in real close to budget!"

Lonnie raised her hands and backed up. "Don't kiss me again, please!" She turned to leave. "Bye, Benny. Have a great weekend!" she laughed.

"It sure as hell is now!" he exclaimed. "Damn!"

"You have to have ‘em sealed," she called back, "And do the postage."

"Peanuts!" he yelled back. "I'll have Payroll do it. Holy shit! We're almost making budget!" He did a little jig in the hallway that made Lonnie bend over with laughter. She had never seen him dance before. Well, like they say, he shouldn't give up his day job. Then she opened the door to the stairway and clamored down the stairs, laughing.

She headed to Payroll to pick up Ruby's health and time card. Ruby now had full benefits and a small paycheck, not a huge amount but something at least every two weeks to the end of the year. Wages AND insurance till after the baby was born. But no overtime. All those people who helped Ruby had helped get her a small salary and health insurance. Too bad it couldn't be made retroactive to cover the visit on the hill, too, she thought. Well, Ruby'll have to use her paychecks to pay for that.

Lonnie walked into the condo and saw her father sitting watching a cop movie with Ruby who was laying on the lounger covered with a blanket. Her mother was folding baby clothes she had just brought back from the laundry room and finishing up a conversation on the phone at the same time.

Lonnie ambled over and dropped the card on Ruby's cot.

"You need to get a bassinet yet for your bedroom, Lonnie," her mother said as she put down the phone. "Clarice and I were just discussing that." Clarice was one of their neighbors when her family lived in Portland when she was a youngster. "She's so pleased to hear that you'll be starting a family. You know, there'll be a lot of feedings and you'll want the baby close. We haven't seen bassinets in any of the thrift shops, have we, Father?"

"No, we haven't," he agreed. "Strange."

"Yes, and I don't know why," his wife mused. "You'd think there'd be plenty of them around."

"Oh, yeah. All right," Lonnie agreed. Where do you buy a bassinet?

"What's this?" Ruby asked, looking at the card.

"Your health benefits. Full benefits. Retroactive to last Monday. We can call the clinic and give them your number to pay for your exam."

"Health benefits?" She looked at the card. "I have full health benefits? And the baby, too?"

Lonnie's grin spread clear across her face. "Yep. Both of you. Clear till after the baby is born. To the first of the year."


"Yep. You are my part-time employee with full benefits. And it's retroactive to pay for your last office visit, too. But you have to sign this job rate pay card."

"C'mere a minute," Ruby pointed to the chair beside her.

Lonnie quickly sat next to the pregnant woman. Ruby sat up, leaned over and pressed a soft kiss on Lonnie's mouth. Her parents both politely looked away. Ruby had only thought to give a tender kiss of thanks, which was still rather bold of her considering how little she had ever liked to be demonstrative in public. But to have insurance coverage for the baby's sake was overwhelming and she so wanted Lonnie to know how much she appreciated it.

Lonnie, however, wrapped her arms around the small woman and increased the kiss with great fervor until they were both deeply involved in quite a passionate embrace. "Wow," Lonnie breathed huskily as they broke for a moment. What this woman awakened inside her! She thought her body might go into catatonic shock.

Of their own accord, Ruby's arms moved up around Lonnie's neck. "Thank you," Ruby purred. Her breath in Lonnie's ear made the brunette shiver.

"C'mon, Mother, let's finish that shopping and leave these young folks alone for a while." Lonnie's father got up and escorted his wife to the door.

Both young women instantly pulled apart. Lonnie glanced over, "Sorry. We, uh, got carried away."

"No, no. We have some things to do," her father smiled, "See you two later."

"Have fun," Lonnie called. It had only been a kiss, but Ruby felt her face flush. She had gotten entirely too comfortable with Lonnie's folks around and had totally lost herself once Lonnie's lips were on hers. What was happening to her? She had never kissed Raleigh around anyone else. But she couldn't seem to resist this tall beauty. One touch from Lonnie and she was a goner. But she hadn't wanted to embarrass Lonnie's folks or herself.

"I didn't mean to..."

"Shhhh..." Lonnie pressed her lips back on the blonde's.


Lonnie pressed harder till she felt Ruby's hands relax then run through her hair, urging the brunette's head forward. She felt the small hands cup the sides of her face as their lips ground passionately into each other. Ruby's mouth was warm and soft, teasing, demanding, coaxing. It was a dream come true for Lonnie. Her tongue sought entry and entry was willingly granted. Their kiss became even more steamy.

"Wow," Lonnie sighed again when they came up for air. "You're a really, really good kisser." She stared at the small blonde.

"You inspire me," Ruby blushed, wondering where all that passion had come from. Then she sat back, "But, I'm really sorry about your folks and, uh, I'd better remember what the doctor said, don't you think?"

Lonnie gently reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of one hand. "Yeah. But my folks are fine. Don't worry." She wanted to tell Ruby they'd seen much worse. She wanted to tell about the passionate holds Cheryl had pulled her into when her parents were there the last time, all done for shock value, but decided it might not sound that good. Besides, she willingly went into kisses with Ruby. She had all but fought Cheryl's octopus hands off at the time, if she recalled correctly. She remembered that she and Cheryl'd had quite a large fight over it when her parents left.

"It feels so fabulous when you put your arms around me," Ruby sighed, shyly bringing her eyes to meet Lonnie's.

"Oh, yeah," Lonnie breathed. "I think so, too." Then she became very serious. "We do need to be careful and follow doctor's orders, though. We don't want to trigger anything."

Ruby sighed. "Yes." Another sigh. "Do you know when I first wanted to kiss you? You're not going to believe this. It was the first time I saw you come through the coffee shop door."

"Really?" Lonnie was more than surprised. "I was drenched and pretty annoyed. I don't think I looked too kissable."

"Oh, I thought you were about the sexiest woman I'd ever seen in my life. Then when I got to know you, I thought you might be the sweetest, kindest, most wonderful female ever created."

Lonnie spared her words and leaned forward for another round of more gentle, less passionate kissing..."getting to know you" kisses, but it was hard to keep the passion down.

"Uh, maybe we shouldn't," Ruby put her hand on her stomach.

"Right, right!" Lonnie thought for a minute. They had to keep from kissing but she didn't want to give up the physical contact with her beautiful blonde. "I know, can you scoot up a little?"

Ruby scooted up on the lounger with some difficulty and Lonnie moved in behind her. Ruby leaned back with a sigh and felt Lonnie's arms go around her. Lonnie kept a hand on Ruby's large belly. Suddenly a kick jarred her hand and her eyes got huge.

"Did you feel that? Did you feel it? Was it a kick?"

Ruby chuckled. "Yes. I get to feel those from the inside out."

"Oh, Ruby," Lonnie sighed. "She kicked! Wait till I tell Mom!"

Ruby laughed. Lonnie leaned forward and planted a kiss on the blonde's neck. A soft moan escaped the smaller woman's mouth. Ruby's body was still a'tingle, but what she felt now was more of a comfortable haze.

This was how Lonnie wanted to spend the rest of her life. She had no doubt at all. She sat back and looked at the small blonde with wonderment.

"What?" Ruby couldn't keep a small smile from her face. She twisted around slightly when she felt the nuzzling stop.

"I'm afraid I've fallen so hard," Lonnie breathed in her ear, "for the cutest blonde with the biggest green eyes I've ever seen." She planted another neck kiss. "And her beautiful baby girl. I hope that doesn't scare you off."

"Mmm, you're a sweet talker," Ruby smiled. "I'm not scared, Lonnie, cause I feel the same way about you. And I won't always look like this. I'll work hard to get my figure back after..."

"I think you're beautiful," Lonnie said honestly, "just like this. I've never seen anyone more beautiful!"

"You are such a sweet talker, and I, well, I love it." Ruby became very serious. She leaned back and said softly, "And I feel the same about you. I didn't mean to fall in love, either, but..." Lonnie tightened her grip. "It just happened."

"Yeah," Lonnie smiled. They cuddled together for a while. It's not easy to find a position to romance a very pregnant woman, but this was working fine. "I have something to ask you," Ruby said quietly.

"Fire away," Lonnie answered.

"Would it upset you if your mother stayed until the baby was born? She asked me and I said I'd ask you."

Lonnie blinked. Her mother had asked Ruby but hadn't wanted to ask her? That was new. Her mother had never been shy about asking Lonnie anything. But she knew her mother really liked Ruby and the two of them sat and chatted and laughed all the time it seemed. So the thought of it actually pleased her. "I'd love it, but how do you feel about it?"

A smile began to spread across the blonde's face. "I'd like it. I feel safe when your family's around. You all take very good care of me and the little one. And I like your Mom a lot."

"It's settled then." Lonnie's lips again moved to the blonde's neck.

"Good. Mmmm," she hummed, shutting her eyes and leaning into the nuzzling.

"And I have something I'd like to ask you," Lonnie murmured, lifting her lips from the blonde's neck.

"Okay," Ruby opened her eyes and a touch of wariness was in her words.

"After this would you let me add you on my insurance instead of working as an employee? You're going to be so busy when the baby's born. I don't think you'll have time to work. You can hire on later if you want, but I wanna make sure you're covered at all times...both of you."

"How could you do that? I thought this only went to the new year. How could I add it to yours?"

"As a domestic partner," Lonnie said softly, "As my partner."

Ruby froze, "Uh, what are you asking me, exactly?" Her smaller hands fell across Lonnie's. Lonnie noticed a slight trembling.

The tall brunette sat back. She hadn't planned to voice anything regarding a potential partnership at this point. Not so early in their relationship. But she'd been thinking about it almost non-stop since they met. And she didn't want to do this just to get Ruby insurance. That was important, of course, but she felt oh so much more. She wanted the real thing and nothing less. And Ruby seemed amenable. She could easily see them still being partners fifty years in the future. Well, why not just give into it and admit what I want? Lonnie'd never given much thought to love at first sight, really, but this just felt so right. Well, all right, I'm a Uhaul lesbian after all, she sighed.

"Uh," she nestled the blonde's neck again, "I guess what I'm asking is, would you be my partner, Ruby? I know we haven't known each other long, but I've never been more sure of anything before in my life."

Ruby whispered, "Are you asking me to marry you?"

Lonnie beamed. "Yes. That is what I'm asking. Will you?"

"We've only known each other a week," Ruby replied.

"I know. But I think you and I together are a wonderful combination. Don't you feel it? It may only have been a week, but I'm certain of what I want, and I, well, I hope you'll feel the same way."

Ruby was quiet so long it made Lonnie nervous. The smile disappeared and the brunette began to frown in worry. She doesn't want to marry me. She could feel her shoulders slump involuntarily.

"Maybe we should slow down a little," the blonde said softly. That didn't make Lonnie feel any better. Large saucer shaped green eyes looked over her shoulder. "Don't you think it's something you might want to think about more? I mean, it doesn't mean just me, Lonnie. It means a commitment to a child for at least eighteen years. That's a long time. Your life would change completely."

"I know," Lonnie's voice was solemn.

"I don't just come into this kind of thing by myself. The baby and I are a package deal. I couldn't do anything that wasn't good for my baby. You'd have to be absolutely, positively sure."

"I agree, Ruby. And I AM absolutely, positively sure."

Ruby took Lonnie's hand in her own and absently linked their fingers. "Seriously, this might not be at all what you want, honey. Think about it, please? You wouldn't have time to go to the tavern with your friends. You'd have a little person to be responsible for. There'll be midnight feedings and diapers to change. A child needs a lot of love and care for a long time. I just don't want you to run headlong into something you really aren't sure about. Okay? It's not that I haven't fallen in love with you, I have. From the very first minute I saw you, practically. But think about it first, okay?"

Lonnie pressed a hand to her chest, "For a minute there, I thought you were going to turn me down flat," she whispered. "I thought maybe you just wanted me as a friend. I...I could do that, I guess..."

"Oh, no, honey. No, don't think that. I DO like you as a friend. But I've loved you from the very first time I saw you. No, it wasn't that at all." Ruby tried to twist, but wasn't able.

"I'm glad," Lonnie sighed. "Not that I wouldn't want to be your good friend. It's just that I've hoped we'd have a future together almost since I met you. I didn't want to offend you by asking you this. I...just...fell for you. Hard."

"I'm not offended. I'm flattered. More than flattered. I adore you, Lonnie. But I have to protect my baby. And I don't want you rushing into this and feeling later like you've made a mistake."

"No, love." Lonnie's thumbs gently stroked Ruby's hands. "I know in my heart right this minute, absolutely and without any doubt. And I don't need to think about it. That may not make sense for as short a time as we've known each other. And heavens knows, I've not jumped into "living together" relationships in the past without a good deal of getting to know each other first. But this is different. It's like I've always known you. And the idea of raising a child with you is probably one of the most exciting and wonderful things I can imagine happening to me. This is how I want to spend my life. With you...two. Both of you."

"Sometimes the idea of a baby is more exciting than the reality. Do you think you'll feel that way next week? month? year? ...ten years from now?" Ruby chewed her lip. "Think about it carefully, honey...dirty diapers, a crying baby, things you won't be able to do, teacher's meetings, baby sitters every time you want to join your friends and staying home nights. Your life will be changed forever."

"I will absolutely feel that way, won't you?"

"Yes, but I'm the one who's bringing a child into your life that I'm asking you to accept." Seeing that the baby did not seem to pose a barrier, she added, "And, there's more,"

"There's more?"

"Yes," Ruby swallowed then said, "You know the, uh, I don't know what you'd call it...emotional baggage, maybe, that I come with. I wish it wasn't there, but it is. Are you sure you want to deal with that?"

"Absolutely. You can get counseling with this insurance, too. You were a victim, darlin, and counseling help is out there if you want it. And I'll try and do everything I know how to help. I know you'll have to grieve the loss of your family, too. That's only natural. But we have a lifetime to work through these things. I want to be here for you, Ruby, like I know you'll be there for me with any of my problems that might crop up. And you should know, you'll be gaining another family." Lonnie snickered, "Course, considering my family, you might want to go into counseling straight away just to deal with them."

Ruby tapped Lonnie on the arm. "Shame on you. You have wonderful parents." But she had to smile.

"I know I do."

Ruby put her head back on Lonnie's shoulder and looked up, "I think you should know, I...I have a temper sometimes, too, Lonnie."

Lonnie chuckled. "I'll learn to deal with it, love. I have plenty of oddities you'll need to learn to deal with yourself." Lonnie kissed Ruby's neck again making a shiver run down the small blonde's spine.

Ruby gazed off into the trees below the balcony as she mulled over this prospect. Could this possibly be happening to them? It seemed too good to be true, and that was always a worry. But Lonnie was everything she'd ever dreamed of, the one who made her heart beat faster just thinking about her, the kind of person she'd always wanted as a partner, even the kind of person she could see as her champion, not that she needed a champion. And Lonnie was the kind of person she thought she could cherish forever.

Her mind went to Lonnie's family. What dear parents. They were a definite bonus. She liked them more than a lot. And they would give her child the kind of acceptance and love that every child deserved, she was quite sure about that. It was an important factor, in her mind. She was hard pressed to find anything unacceptable about this offer.

Lonnie nibbled her ear. "I'm ready to commit, honey. But maybe you need some time to consider it for a while. I don't want to rush you. Would you be willing to share parenting with me? What if I wanted to adopt her? Would you be willing to share her that much? I don't just want a roll in the hay with you, Ruby, not that there's anything wrong with a roll in the hay. I want much more than that. I want forever....and I want it with you and your daughter. I want her to be our daughter."

Large round green eyes looked up over her shoulder at the woman behind her. Ruby chewed her lip, silently took the wedding ring off her ring finger and slipped it on Lonnie's little finger. "Will you wear my ring, Lonnie? It's not much, but it's what I can afford."

"I'd be honored. Does this mean yes?"

"Yes. I'll have it made larger for you as soon as I can afford it."

"I'll buy you one, too, if that's all right."

"I'd be thrilled to wear your ring."

They sat together silently for a few minutes in a tight grip in each others arms swaying gently forward and back. Then Lonnie snorted a laugh. "I wanna tell someone but I guess we can't tell my folks or my family ‘cause they already think they know."

Ruby laughed. "You're right." Then she got very thoughtful. "Are you sure, Lonnie? Very sure?"

"I am! I'm promising to love, honor and cherish both you and the baby for all of forever. I am absolutely ready."

"Oh, love," Ruby sighed. "Uh, then there's something else I want to do if you don't mind."

"What's that, honey?"

Ruby looked back at the endearment. It was so wonderful to hear it said to her. "I want to change my last name to Shaeker. Do you mind?"

"Mind? I'd be delighted!"

"Will your parents mind?"

"You're kidding, right? They'll be...what do they say in England? Oh yeah, they'll be over the moon!"

"Do you think it'll be hard to do?"

A huge smile blessed Lonnie's face. "I don't know. But we'll sure check into it."

"Thank you. I want to do it before the baby's born, if that's possible. I want her to legally be a Shaeker."

"I have a friend that's an attorney. I'll call her and find out."

"I can't believe this is happening."

"It's wonderful, isn't it?" They sat comfortably in each other's arms just letting their thoughts wander for a minute. This was right. Regardless of any of the factors, it felt right to both of them. They didn't even notice the television programs rolling past.

"Lonnie?" Ruby asked.


"Your folks haven't asked. They haven't even brought up the father question. I was sure your mother would once you'd gone to work. She and I.., uh, we talk pretty easily about things."

Lonnie nodded her head. "They assume I'm taking the other parenting responsibility. Maybe they assume you had artificial insemination. Then the male donor would be unknown. I don't know. I'm sure if you want to talk to them about it, they'll listen. But if you don't, they'll assume it's none of their business. They'll go by what you want to do."

"That's quite a relief, actually. I hate talking about it."

"Then we won't," Lonnie smiled. "But I am going to call Nyri. I'll do that today."

"What will you tell her?"

"If it's all right, I'll tell her what happened to you and the name the guy gave you. I'll explain that we need her to be discreet, then I'll turn her loose to do her research. We won't find out anything overnight. It'll take time."

"Uh, all right. But what do we tell other people when they ask?"

"About the father?," Lonnie saw her nod. She thought a minute, "First we'll say we're having a baby. If they specifically ask about the father, we'll say the male donor is unknown, but that I hope to be able to adopt as an official second parent once she's born. All of that is true."

"Thank you."

"You know," Lonnie said softly, "changing your name is the greatest gift I could ever hope for, uh, after you and the baby. That you would want to have my name, it's such an honor."

Lonnie ran a string of light kisses down Ruby's neck. "Wait!" she startled the small blonde. She jumped up off the lounge chair and got down on one knee in front of Ruby. "If I can arrange it, would you have a joining ceremony with me tonight or tomorrow morning? Sometime before my Dad goes home?"

Ruby's face ran from shock to savory smile, "You sure know how to sweep a girl off her feet." She reached over and caressed Lonnie's cheek and teased, "For a minute there I was afraid you were going to try and rush me." She laughed a delightful laugh that made Lonnie chuckle just hearing it. She'd heard Ruby laugh like that when she sat talking with her mother. Ruby slowly leaned forward and pressed a quick, soft kiss on Lonnie's lips, "Yes," she whispered, "The answer's yes."

"Allllllll right!" Lonnie shouted as she jumped to her feet. She ran for the phone and dialed. Ruby could hear her half of the conversation with someone named Chase. She decided that person must be a friend.

She silently watched her hang up and place another call. This was a much more formal call, and not to someone Lonnie knew. Ruby listened. She heard the brunette explaining that her father was leaving to go back to Pennsylvania about noon. The tall beauty looked over at her. "Sunrise?" she questioned. Ruby's eyes widened. She put her hand over the mouthpiece, "Is sunrise all right with you? Can you be ready?"

Ruby swallowed and nodded her head. Everything was happening so quickly. She was going to make forever vows the next morning. Her head was swimming.

"It's not Ruby's favorite time of day, exactly, but she says she can be ready." Ruby continued to watch and listen. She heard Lonnie explain that Ruby was not supposed to be out of bed this last month of her pregnancy. "Perfect!" Lonnie exulted. "Six thirty in the morning it is. On our balcony. Perfect! Thank you so much."

Lonnie hung up and flashed a warm smile her way. She dialed again. "Chase? Hey, it's me again. Six thirty tomorrow morning. Yes, she has to be back for a service at eleven she said. I know tomorrow's sudden but can you and Maddy make it? Wonderful! Oh, and don't forget like I just told you, you're going to talk with Ruby about changing her name, too. Yes, we'll mix business with pleasure. Huh? R...U...B...Y, Ruby. But it's the last name she's changing to Shaeker. And we want the baby to be a Shaeker, too. Oh, good. Her due date is in about three weeks. That's right. Three weeks. She wants her name to be Shaeker on the certificate. Do your best, okay pal? Great! See you in the morning. Yes, I know it's a whirlwind romance, but it's perfect and I can hardly wait. Yes. You did hear me say that. A U-haul? Ha. Ha. See you tomorrow."

"It's set," Lonnie's smile lit up the room. "Tomorrow morning at six thirty. Chase and Maddy are gonna come, too."

"Chase and Maddy?" Ruby asked.

Lonnie sat on the chair by Ruby, "Yeah, they're some friends of mine. The ones I bought the book for. Chase, uh her first name is Hannah, I think, and she's my attorney. Anyway, she and Madison Montgomery are gonna come by. They know the minister that does these, so I called and she'll be here, too."

"Do we need rings?" Ruby asked.

"Oh, Gods!" Lonnie stood thinking. Then she began to pace. "Yes, we need rings. Now, let me see, who sells rings that would be open after my folks get home?" She flashed Ruby an almost panicked look.

"Relax, honey," Ruby said. "We can wait on a ring for me."

"No," Lonnie began, "here's what we'll do. When my folks come back, I'll run down to this store we have here. Stays open till ten or eleven. They have a jewelry department. What kind of ring would you like?"

"A simple band like the one I'm giving you. It stands for our love. Pure and simple, right?"

"Good! Yes, that's right." Lonnie began to pace again. "I'll wear yours and they can get the size from it. We'll have this one sized later for me." She nervously tapped her fingers against her mouth as she paced. Ruby watched silently.

"Come and sit back down, sweetheart," the blonde said. Lonnie turned and shot her a deer in the headlights look. "C'mon. Sit by me," Ruby encouraged.

"Okay." Lonnie got behind again. Ruby leaned back.

"My hands are a little swollen now, but this ring fits. It's larger than I normally wear," Ruby said, spinning the ring on Lonnie's little finger. "So get this size. Later it can be downsized when I've lost weight again."

"All right," Lonnie agreed. "Oh, I have to call Nyri. I'd better do that while I'm thinking about it."

"Good idea," Ruby leaned forward. Lonnie hopped up and got the phone.

Thirty minutes later she had set the wheels in motion. Nyri was pleased to have her first case, distressed at what had happened to Ruby, and understood their desire for discretion. Lonnie was pleased to know the retainer would only be five hundred dollars. She knew that was very low for what her friend would be charging corporations.

Lonnie hung up and moved back to the lounge chair, climbing in behind the blonde. "Nyri said she knew some people and was pretty sure she could get your name change pushed through quickly, if we'd like. She told me to have Chase call her cause Chase said it might take longer. I told Nyri, the sooner the better."

"Wonderful," Ruby grinned. "I'd like it right away." She lay back against the tall woman and hummed, "Just think. Tomorrow at this time we'll be joined." It didn't seem real. They were actually going to make lifetime promises to each other. It didn't frighten Ruby now as much as amaze her. "I'll be Ruby Shaeker, joined forever with Lonnie Shaeker, my partner in everything."

"I love you, Ruby," Lonnie kissed the blonde's hair. "I look forward to loving you, rubbing your back or your feet when they're sore, and raising a sweet baby girl together. We'll have an amazing life. I promise."

"I love you, too, Lonnie," Ruby whispered. Lonnie's hand came out onto Ruby's large tummy. The baby kicked again and Lonnie's eyes grew wide.

"She kicked again! Oh, wow! She's a great kicker!"

"Yes, she is. She's been kicking all day," Ruby admitted, shifting uncomfortably.

The door opened and her parents came back in carrying bags they thought might very well be filled with more baby things. The drawers in the changing table chest were nearly filled as it was.

"Mom, Dad, guess what! The baby's kicking! She's a great kicker! Here! Feel!" Ruby helped them place their hands in the right places until the baby kicked.

Lonnie's mother squealed, "She's kicking, Robert! Did you feel it?"

"Yes, dear," the man with the soft smile said. "Anyone that can kick like that has got to be a bone fide, pure-of-heart, mover..."

Lonnie and her mother's voices joined him in saying " and a Shaeker!"

"Funny you should mention that, Dad, cause Ruby just told me she's changing her name to Shaeker. The baby WILL be a Shaeker."

"AHHHHHHHHH!" her mother screamed, scaring them all half out of their wits. "That's fantastic!!!!! You're a Shaeker in our minds anyway, but now it will be official. Welcome to the Shaeker family, dear!" She put a hand on Ruby's belly, "And welcome to this dear, little one, too! Our first girl grandbaby!"

"I told you so," Lonnie whispered in Ruby's ear.

"Thanks, Mom," Ruby smiled happily. Lonnie's mother beamed in appreciation of the title.


This family is so delightful, Ruby thought, and it's going to be my family now. She glanced back at the tall woman who not only promised her love but promised her daughter love as well. She must be in a dream. Had to be. Her life had totally changed since she got off that bus from Seattle. She could hardly believe it! One week ago today and here they were getting joined in the morning. She knew she should have felt more worried, but she didn't. A tiny smile tipped her lips and she thanked the powers that be for putting her in the same latte shop Saturday last.

"Oh, and before you go home tomorrow, Daddy," Lonnie said casually, "We're going to have a joining ceremony here..out on the balcony."

"A do over? So we can be here for it?" her mother asked, pleased.

"Yes," Lonnie answered. "No. Sort of. We didn't do it before."

"Lonnie thought it would be a good idea to do it while you were here," Ruby inserted.

"Ahhhh!" her mother screamed again. "We thought you already had it. We get to be here, Robert!" Her husband smiled.

"Oh, my gosh!" Lonnie jumped up. "That reminds me! I have to run to the store!" She began to pace around the room. "I'll be right back. Let's see, where's my fanny pack? Uh, where'd I put my keys..."

"Calm down, Lonnie," her mother and Ruby said at the same time. Then they looked at each other and laughed.

"In my day we'd have said, ‘Jinks, you owe me a coke," Lonnie's mother grinned.

"Did you want a coke?" Ruby asked.

Ruby looked puzzled and the older woman continued, "No, no. It loses something in the translation over the years, doesn't it Father?"

"Yes, I believe it does," the older man answered. "It just means you said the same thing at the same time. The first person then to call out ‘Jinks, you owe me a coke' was supposed to win a coke from the other."

Ruby grinned. "Oh, good. I'll have to remember that the next time we say the same thing together."

"Did you want a coke?" Lonnie's mother asked, wondering perhaps if the pregnant woman was confused and really did want a coke. She didn't even know if there were any left in the fridge. But it wasn't good for the baby in any case, she was sure.

"No. Well, maybe after the baby's born."

"Good!" both parents said at the same time. Then they pointed at each other and called, "Jinks, you owe me a coke." And everyone laughed.

"I'll get some cokes for everyone while I'm at the store," Lonnie called hurriedly from the closet, not really paying attention to their conversation. "Diet okay?" She rushed out the door without waiting for an answer. They all watched her leave and burst into further laughter.

"We're getting cokes whether we want them or not," her father chuckled.

"And diet ones at that," Ruby laughed.

Oh yeah, they were going to be a family all right.


Continued in Chapter 5

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