Odd as it might seem, sleeping in her own bed reinstated old habits, and Alex once again found herself waking up with the first light of dawn. Conversely, Samantha found the comfort of home reversed her propensity to awaken at Alex's slightest move. Alex realized this as she slipped out from under the smaller woman's grasp and inched off the bed.
Today would definitely be a busy one, and she wanted to get started as soon as possible. Rainbow followed her into the kitchen, and she gave the small creature a saucer of milk before pouring herself some tea. Alex's business persona had reminded her last evening that she would need to check her e-mail in the morning, so she had gone down to the car and retrieved the laptop. The computer now sat vacantly staring at her, a physical reminder that it was time to return to work.
During their absence from the office, her contact with Kim had been through online messages and phone calls. Luckily, there hadn't been any major problems in the two weeks they were "vacationing," and most of the inquiries were easily handled via the Internet. The brunette loved living in the information age, and now having the ability to be an absentee boss was more important than it had ever been before. She shivered at the thought of the stack of telephone messages that would be awaiting her arrival in the office later this morning, but she wasn't quite ready to tackle them right now.
On the way home yesterday, she and Samantha had again discussed having Sally come visit and the remote possibility of Samantha's mom joining her. Alex knew that nothing would make her lover happier than to see her mom and sister at the same time, but it was doubtful that the elder Riley would be making a visit to Laguna in the near future, unless things at home continued to worsen. Alex had mixed feelings when thoughts of the Riley's came to mind. She desperately wanted Samantha to have the approval of her entire family, but the brunette had been dealing with the patriarch far too long to hold onto any fairy-tale hope of a happy ending where he was concerned. It seemed he ran his family like he ran his salespeople, with control and fear, throwing crumbs of encouragement and rewards when the spirit moved him. She had disliked Don Riley an eternity before she had ever met him in the flesh, and after the way he had treated Samantha, she downright loathed the man. The only reason she had not pursued annihilating him in business was because it would also devastate Samantha and the rest of her family.
Shaking off the queasy feeling that was building in her stomach from thoughts of the confrontation between father and daughter, she turned her thoughts to pleasant things, namely, Samantha. She would give the sleeper another hour, and then their vacation would definitely be ended. Alex spent the next 45 minutes hooking up Samantha's video game, petting Rainbow, and answering e-mail.
The sun had peeked over the building and was filtering playfully into the living room when she decided it was time to awaken the blonde and get ready to greet the workday.
Surprisingly, the anticipated chore did not turn out as Alex had expected. With two cups of tea in hand, she walked through the bedroom door, only to find Samantha sitting on the side of the bed, her sparkling emerald eyes actually open, and a large grin upon her face after she caught a glimpse of Alex's expression.
"See, I can greet the day without having to be dragged kicking and screaming from the security of our bed." Samantha reached out and relieved her partner of one of the cups of hot liquid. "Thanks, Alex, this is just what I need." She took a large sip and sighed. "Guess it's time to put our noses back on that grindstone."
"For the time being, yes. But we're going to start working on finding you an assistant; someone to eventually take your place when you're too busy with your writing to be bothered with Alternative Paradise."
"I love working with you, Alex, but you know the prospect of having writing turn into a career would be a dream come true." Samantha put her tea down and motioned for Alex to sit by her on the bed. "In the meantime, I would like to still keep working in the clinic, so at least I feel useful. I'm pretty sure you concocted my position out of your own necessity." The smaller woman grinned as her lover could not totally deny the fact. "But I think it's become a fairly viable position, and it gives me a sense of pride to know I can coordinate a clinic the size of ours."
"I'm not trying to push you out of the Center, Samantha. I just want to give you the opportunity to have the time to pursue your writing as well as to delve deeper into the area of healing like we discussed on the trip home."
"I want to do all of that, Alex. And I want to do the traveling that we talked about, but things are happening so quickly; it's hard to assimilate them all. In actuality, having the Center is keeping me grounded in the 'real world.'"
"There are just so many places I want to take you . . . so much for us to experience . . ."
"Alex, we'll have the time." Samantha placed a hand on the brunette's shoulder. "Why don't we pretend that we need the money and the jobs and keep building this center until it's everything you envisioned? While we're doing that, we can search for a physical therapist to come in only when needed, like when we go on vacation. I'll train someone to do the same for my position." She kissed Alex on the cheek. "I love the way you want to spoil me, honey, but I think you'll be unhappy if you don't make this center everything you wanted it to be before I came along and interrupted your life."
"I wouldn't call you an interruption." Alex chuckled and then continued, "Nothing like the artist giving the business woman the practical side of life." She drew the blonde woman into her arms. "I want you to be happy, Samantha. I have all the means at my disposal to make your every wish come true."
"The thing that makes me happiest is being beside you, Alex. I didn't realize you were as wealthy as you are when I fell in love with you, you know?"
Sapphire eyes glistened as the dark-haired beauty listened to words that further gladdened an already overflowing heart.
"Sure," Samantha confessed, "I knew you had money or at least backers who had money. But I had no idea of your total worth. It wasn't your money I fell in love with, Alex; it was you."
"I think I get the picture," the dark-haired beauty beamed at her mate. "We'll take the playing slowly. You'll write as the muse allows, and like Mom suggested, we'll both do some studying of Reiki. We'll take things easy and see what the fates have in store for us."
"Sounds like a marvelous life plan," Samantha agreed.
"Well, if that's the case, then it's time for you to get your butt out of bed and back into your routine of businesswoman. It is Monday morning, you know?"
After a shower and a quick breakfast the two women made their presence known downstairs. Every employee they came into contact with welcomed them home, and they were soon back into the natural swing of the Center's operation. Alex had a meeting with Kim in her office, and Samantha went to check on her scheduling for the upcoming week for lectures and guest instructors.
They had promised to meet for lunch in the apartment, but at 11:30 Alex called Samantha's office to let her know there was going to be an emergency meeting in the conference room. Samantha couldn't imagine what would have instigated the necessity for a stat meeting, but she dropped what she was doing and headed for the second floor.
She arrived at the large room and was greeted by one of the employees who graciously opened the double doors and motioned for her to enter ahead of him.
The word did exactly that as she looked and saw all the employees, who were not working with clients, standing beneath a large sign that read: Happy Belated Birthday, Samantha!
She could feel the heat as color rose in her cheeks, and her eyes filled with tears. Alex was there by her side with a comforting arm around her shoulders. "Nothing like stretching your special day out over three weeks," her lover whispered into her ear.
"I don't know what to say!" The blonde looked around the room and mouthed "thank you" to everyone there.
"Well, don't just stand there," Angel commented as she motioned for Samantha to come further into the room. "We have a spread here, a cake to cut, and presents. Of course, we only have our lunch hour, so time is short."
Samantha walked over to Angel and gave her a hug, "Thanks. This is such a surprise!"
"Hey, we couldn't let your special day go by without celebrating it. But we did have this planned for last week," the dark-haired woman smiled. "We had to make up an excuse to eat the first cake."
"I'll bet that wasn't hard," Samantha replied. "Probably something likeççthe boss is staying away another week," she smiled at her friend.
Now it was Angel's turn to feign embarrassment.
It didn't take long for the food to begin to disappear, and Samantha insisted on cutting the cake before opening the presents so those who had to leave could take some with them. She opened the gifts according to who had to leave first and saved Kim's and Angel's for last.
Kim's gift was tickets to a dinner-theatre show in Los Angeles; they were open-end tickets so they could pick any show in the coming season. "I figured you might want to do some sight seeing sometime in the near future, and it would be a nice way to the spend the evening afterward."
"These are marvelous, Kim, thank you!" Samantha turned to Alex and smiled. "Now we have another reason to visit LA."
"I guess so," the brunette responded. "We'll see what shows they're planning to do this season, and you can pick the date." She smiled over at her old friend and mouthed a "thank you," to which Kim mouthed back "you're welcome," before giving Samantha a hug and begging off to attend to a client.
Finally, the only present left was Angel's. Samantha was sure by its shape that it was a music CD but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be another video game. "This looks interesting," she commented as she turned the case over in the hand. "What kind of a game is this, exactly?"
"You're kidding me, right?" Angel came closer and took the jewel case out of Samantha's hands. "You're not telling me that you don't know who this is?" Angel pointed to the image on the front of the case.
A blank expression crossed the face of the small blonde. She looked at her friend in amazement. "I'm afraid I am. Who is it?"
"It's only the star of the most syndicated series on television. You really mean to tell me that the two of you don't watch television?"
"Not much," Samantha blushed. "We've been rather preoccupied lately."
"Oh, yeah," Angel acknowledged. "I forgot the two of you were still in the sheet-burn stage."
Now Samantha was really blushing. She wanted desperately to change the topic of conversation from her and Alex and back to the game. "So," she asked, "who's Xena?"
"Listen, we don't have time to go into all of who she is right now, Sam. Just try to catch it on television one of these nights, okay? It's a great show; I'll fill you in on the details later! In the meantime, enjoy the game. I hate to eat and run, but I have a client arriving in five minutes. Happy belated birthday." She gave the blonde a kiss on the cheek and hurried out the door.
"Okay, now I'm really confused," Samantha confessed as she looked up at Alex and got no help whatsoever.
"Hey, I don't know anymore than you do. Guess we'll have to find this show in the guide and watch it sometime, especially if it's a big enough hit to warrant a video game being named after it."
Neither Samantha nor Alex had taken time to eat while the room was filled with employees, but now with it empty, they sat down to the plates someone had been kind enough to fill for them.
"So, how's it goingççbeing back at work?" Alex asked while she pushed her salad around the plate with her fork.
"It's been quite a busy morning. We have some new speakers coming in next week, so I'm glad we got back in time for me to schedule them in. We also have a Reiki instructor penciled in for the first week in November. I'm really looking forward to that lecture. I'm glad I still have time to read the book Mom gave me and hope to do a little studying on the subject beforehand." She watched as Alex continued to push her food around her plate and knew that something was weighing on her partner's mind. "How did your morning go, Alex?"
"Most of it went great, until I had a meeting with Kim."
"And . . .?"
"It seems there is a bit of a problem with Angel." Alex saw the look on Samantha's face and the way the blonde started to shake her head.
"I don't think it's anything either of us could have foreseen," Alex continued. "Kim thinks she has a drinking problem."
"Why? What makes her think that?"
"There've been complaints from a few of the late afternoon clients that she smelled of alcohol, and one client mentioned that she had slurred speech during one of his visits."
"No one mentioned any untoward advances, did they?" Samantha asked, hoping to receive a negative response.
"No, but I don't know if I want to take the chance that she might," Alex confessed. "We're much too new a center to have problems with employees making passes at clients or being inebriated on the job." The brunette shook her head and got up from the table to stare out at the ocean. "I like Angel, and she's a damn good therapist. I'd like to try to talk to her and get her help before taking any disciplinary action." She turned around and looked at Samantha. "What do you think we should do?"
The blonde got up and stood next to her partner. "I've had my outs with Angel, but if she has an addiction problem, and if she's willing to work on it, then I think we ought to help her. The trick is going to be approaching her with the situation."
"I know, and I don't relish that in the least. I suppose we could watch her closely for the next few weeks. Now that we're aware of the situation, we could take action as soon as one of us, or Kim for that matter, observes that she is under the influence during business hours. I guess we could wait that long."
"That sounds like a marvelous plan, Alex," Samantha agreed. "That way we're not jumping onto her for something we weren't around to personally observe. I just hope we can get it under control before we take off for another vacation."
"I'm sorry to ruin your party atmosphere with this discussion, honey," Alex stated, putting her arms around the smaller woman's shoulders.
"Don't be silly. This is important. My birthday has lasted longer than any birthday has a right to, and this lunch today came as a complete surprise."
"Hey, to get on a lighter subject, did you get a chance to call your sister this morning?"
Green eyes beamed up into those of sapphire. "As a matter of fact, yes, but just for a short period of time. She had to go to work, and she made me promise to call later this evening and fill her in on our trip. I'm not exactly sure how to explain the visitation. I may leave most of that until I see her in person. It'll be easier to talk with her about it face to face, I'm sure."
"As much as I hate to say this," Alex began, "I have a conference call in about ten minutes with a new doctor who wants to send us patients."
"It's still a work day." Samantha gave her lover a goodbye kiss. "I'll put what's left of the perishables away before I leave here. See ya in a couple of hours."
Alex gave her a hug, and then reluctantly withdrew her arms. "Yeah, 'til then. See you in a bit. Don't work too hard."
"You either," Samantha countered, before giving Alex the shooing motion with her hands, encouraging her to leave. "Go . . . time to go back to work . . . boss lady." She blew Alex a kiss when she reached the door and watched as she walked into the hall.
The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, as was the evening and the remainder of the week. It didn't take them long to get back into the swing of work. In the evenings, Samantha made sure they spent some time going over the book Aurora had given them on Reiki. They would position the large pillows on the floor and sit by the windows, overlooking the ocean. Sam would read, sometimes to herself and sometimes out loud. Growing up with Aurora, Alex already knew all about the chakras and their colors and functions. Samantha found the new material fascinating and had Alex test her on her knowledge after she finished each chapter in the book.
Marcy called on Wednesday evening, and during her conversation with Alex it was decided that she and Von would come up on Thursday night, so everyone could be rested on Friday morning. Alex suggested that they spend Friday and Saturday evening in the City of Angels and take in a bit of sight seeing on Saturday. The plan was to arrive in the LA area in time to check into the hotel before the show and then to have a late dinner afterward. Normally it would be a three-hour drive from Laguna, but because they were leaving on a Friday, they added an extra hour to compensate for weekend traffic and another to take care of any unforeseen situation that might occur along the way. Alex and Marcy knew how stressful it could be driving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic that surrounded the city, and noon became the noted time of departure.
Marcy and Von arrived close to 11 o'clock on Thursday evening. Samantha had everything packed and the suitcase sitting in the living room long before they showed up. Marcy hadn't informed Alex that she had just purchased a car and surprised her friend by arriving in a brand new Suburban, totally equipped with the VCR and television that Alex had envisioned for the one she was thinking about buying.
"I figured there was no way the four of us were going to fit into either that Porsche of yours or Samantha's VW. This way we can all ride in style."
"But, I'm used to doing the driving," Alex grumbled as she congratulated her friend on the new vehicle and gave it a thorough inspection. "Don't suppose you'd let me drive part of the way to Hollywood?"
Keeping a somber face, Marcy teased Alex as only an old friend could. When she finally let a smile break through the fa¡ade, Alex knew they would be sharing the task of driving. But Marcy let it be known that she wanted to be behind the wheel when they entered Hollywood.
They called it an early night, and everyone was in bed before the stroke of midnight in anticipation of a weekend full of activity.
"I feel a little guilty about taking off tomorrow," Samantha confessed as she snuggled close to her lover. "We've been back less than a week."
"Do you have all the lecturers and instructors scheduled for next week?" Alex asked.
"Then there's no reason we can't take the day off. I got caught up on everything I had scheduled, too. We have people to cover the Center; that's why we hired them." Alex kissed Samantha on the head and held her tightly. "Now, close those pretty eyes of yours and dream of the City of the Stars. Tomorrow at this time you'll be in Hollywood."
Samantha did exactly what she was told, and the next thing she knew Alex was shaking her gently to wake her up.
"Come on, sleepyhead, time for breakfast."
"Breakfast?" Samantha mumbled. She turned over in bed and placed the pillow over her head.
"Breakfast, Samantha. Breakfast and Hollywood, remember?"
"Hollywood!" The blonde rolled back around and rubbed her eyes. "It's morning already!" She bolted upright in the bed, rubbing her eyes to assist the wake-up process. "We're going to see Ellen tonight!"
"By George, I think she's got it," Alex laughed at the still half-asleep woman who was trying to shake the cobwebs from her head.
"But you said breakfast, and I don't smell a thing," Samantha replied sniffing the air.
"I said breakfast; that doesn't necessarily mean I've cooked it, silly."
"Hmm, point taken," Samantha agreed.
Alex watched Samantha scoot off the bed and stumble into the bathroom. "As soon as you've showered and dressed, we can leave and go get something to eat before we start the long drive."
"Is everyone else awake and dressed?" Samantha wanted to know.
"Marcy's up, but Von is more inclined to sleep late like you. I suppose Marcy is having this same conversation with her."
"This is going to be so much fun, Alex," Samantha exclaimed before grabbing her toothbrush and attacking her teeth. She finished brushing and walked over to give the brunette, who was sitting on the bed watching her, to give her a good morning kiss. "I can't believe we're going to see Ellen!"
"Believe it. Now get dressed and let's go. I already have the suitcase down in the car, so we're just waiting for you two stragglers. It's only 9 o'clock, so we're still ahead of schedule with plenty of time to stop for food. I'm going downstairs while you're in the shower. I want to make sure everything's running smoothly downstairs and that everyone who's supposed to be here today showed up." Without waiting for an answer, she left the apartment and headed for the Center.
Within the half-hour all four women were climbing into the Suburban. They stopped for breakfast before they reached the limits of Laguna and with full stomachs began their excursion, which would lead them to the City of the Angels.
Both the weather and the traffic were in their favor. Samantha loved the drive, especially when they started passing some of the quaint beach towns on their way to the larger city.
She sat in the back with Von and filled her friend in about their vacation in Sedona. Marcy let Alex drive the first half of the trip; then they switched places and Marcy drove the final hour-and-a-half.
Check-in was quick and easy. Alex had reserved adjoining rooms and surprised her friends who had thought they were all sharing one room. She insisted the hotel be her treat since they had bought the tickets for the concert. Since they were not going to take the time to do the theme park scene this time around, Alex booked them into a hotel across from the Egyptian Theater, formerly Mann's Chinese. She knew Samantha would love comparing her footprints and handprints to those of the stars. Figuring they would be in the Hollywood area most of Saturday, Alex felt it was better to have the hotel closer to where they were going to spend the day.
The hotel had been renovated ten years prior and was a throwback to the 1920s. All the old wall coverings and furniture had been duplicated, and the women felt as if they were regressing to the days of flappers, gangsters, prohibition, and bathtub gin.
"What an elegant building," Samantha commented as they followed the bellboy to their rooms.
Alex smiled, knowing her choice had been the right one. "I thought we all might enjoy a glimpse of what was elite during the 'Roaring '20s,'" the brunette admitted. "Style has a way of bypassing generations. I requested rooms with a view of the theater across the street," Alex continued as she walked toward the window and pulled the curtain open to reveal the street below. "I thought it might be fun to watch the parade of characters that frequent Hollywood Boulevard."
"And tomorrow we get to match our prints to those of the stars, right?" Samantha asked, joining her lover at the window.
"Most definitely. Marcy and I did that years ago when we were still in high school," the brunette grinned at her old friend. "It's good to relive old times with good friends."
"Yeah, we were wild and crazy then," Marcy agreed.
"Then?" Samantha chuckled and received a friendly swat on her butt.
"Hey, I still resemble that remark, at least when you're around," Alex admitted. "I haven't been considered wild for quite some time, though I do admit the term crazy probably followed me into adulthood." She pulled her lover close and kissed her.
"If anyone's tired, we have enough time for a short nap before we need to get ready."
It seemed that food was more of an essential than rest, since no one would confess to being tired from the long drive. The group decision was to have a snack down in the hotel caf» before going to their respective rooms to get ready for the evening's festivities.
Hours later they were still laughing as they exited the Amphitheater and headed for their car.
"I don't think I've laughed so much in years," Von stated as they reached the vehicle and got in.
"Ditto," Samantha agreed. "I always thought she was funny, but seeing her in person is amazing. I really liked the way she interacted with the audience. It felt more like we were one huge family."
"That's one of her charms," Marcy noted, when she finally got a word in.
"I want to thank the two of you again for a lovely birthday present," Samantha told her friends.
"Hey, we enjoyed it as much as you did. It's nice to lavish a little luxury on ourselves and our friends, occasionally."
"Okay, I think everyone is in agreement that tonight was special, the seats were fantastic, and the show was marvelous," Alex acknowledged, butting into the conversation. "But . . . I'm sure there's at least one person in this group who must be starving by now. I'll even admit to being very hungry; that snack we had was gone hours ago. Does anyone have any suggestions as to where to go for dinner?"
"I certainly don't," Samantha answered, giggling. "But I know I'm the starving person you were referring to."
"Alex, do you remember that little after hours place we used to go when the bars closed?" Marcy asked. "It's not much on atmosphere, but the food was always good, and the price was reasonable."
"Well, we're not dressed for the Magic Castle anyway," her friend responded. "Yes, I remember where it is; let's just hope it's still there and they still have the same cook. Is everyone in favor of a little Old California hippie cuisine?"
"Okay by me," Von chimed in.
"You have my vote," Samantha voiced.
"Okay, then I guess it's unanimous; American Jane's here we come." Alex followed the line of traffic out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of Sunset Boulevard.
Samantha couldn't believe the wide variety of characters that were seen both in the restaurant and parading on the street outside.
"Welcome to Hollywood," Marcy smiled, watching the look on her friend's face as old hippies, young Gothics, skin heads, and rebels of every persuasion filtered in and around the area where they were eating. "They say America is a melting pot, but I believe the majority of variety is based right here in Hollywood."
"I'll agree," Samantha stated. "We don't see quite the mish-mash of people where I come from. But, you know, it's great to see all these people coming together and getting along; it kind of gives me hope for the human race."
"I don't know how well they all get along," Alex interjected, "but I guess it's as well as any large group of diverse people."
After they finished eating they continued to sit, watch people, and talk until the evening melted into early morning. During a lull in the conversation Alex glanced down at her watch.
"Hey," she addressed her little group, "I think we've talking the night away, is anyone was ready to go back to the hotel?"
"I am," Marcy admitted. "I think the drive is finally catching up with me."
"The drive, the excitement, a full stomach, and the time," Samantha laughed.
"Plus, we have a busy day tomorrow," Von agreed. "Did you mention that we might go to the La Brea Tar Pits, Alex?"
"It was on my list, if that's what everyone agrees to," the brunette replied.
Everyone did agree, and they also all agreed that going back to the hotel and getting some sleep would be the best way to insure that they were all in decent moods come morning.
Marcy drove back to the hotel in a quiet car; it seemed they had talked the day away and exhaustion was settling in. Samantha had her head in the crook of Alex's arm, and before they were halfway back to the hotel, the small woman's breathing was slow and rhythmic. Von was also having a difficult time keeping her eyes open, and by the time they reached their destination, both Marcy and Alex had sleepyheads to awaken.
On the way up to the rooms, it was decided that they would leave wake-up calls with the front desk and meet in Alex and Samantha's room at 10 o'clock. Breakfast would be first on the agenda, followed by a visit to the footprints of the stars, a stroll down the Walk-of-Fame, and then on to the Tar Pits.
Samantha took one last look out the window at the famous boulevard below before crawling into bed next to Alex. "I guess I have the birthday that never stops giving this year," the small blonde stated as she cuddled close to her lover.
"It certainly seems that way," Alex agreed. "The concert tonight was a stroke of genius. Marcy and Von really picked a marvelous gift."
"They certainly did. And now we have tomorrow to look forward to, also. I can't wait to match my handprints with those of the stars."
"You think having the same size hands will bring you fame?" Alex smiled and drew her lover closer.
"No, I'm not that silly. I just think it'll be fun seeing whose hands are the same size as mine. By the way, I had a great day and evening, Alex." Samantha tilted her head to receive a kiss goodnight.
"So did I, honey. Sweet dreams."
"You, too, Alex. See ya in the morning."
At 10 o'clock sharp there was a knock on the door. Alex went to answer it while Samantha finished up in the bathroom.
"She's almost ready," the brunette told her friend. She offered her a cup of coffee from the stash the hotel had supplied, then searched beyond Marcy only to find that she was alone. A questioning eyebrow arched and was greeted with a smile from her friend.
"Yeah, she's still in the bathroom. I imagine that's the same place I'd find Samantha?"
The two old friends walked over to the window and looked down on Hollywood Boulevard.
"It's been a long time since we've been here together, Alex."
"Brings back good memories, though, memories that I've carried through a lot of rough times. Remember the first time we visited those concrete memorials across the street, Marcy?" she nodded out the window.
"I sure do. You had just gotten your driver's license, and your parents bought you that midnight blue Corvette with the diamond finish that you had been drooling over for months. I can still remember the look on your mother's face when Kelley told her that she had given you permission to drive up here and spend the evening. She didn't want you getting too tired to make the trip home so had made reservations for us to stay overnight in . . . "
"This hotel," Alex added with a smile.
"Damn, it was this hotel, wasn't it?" Marcy shook her head.
"Yeah, but it looked a lot different then."
"What do you think about renting some costumes from the Roaring Twenties this afternoon and going down to the speak-easy they've refurbished in the basement of the hotel for dinner tonight?"
"Alex, that's a fantastic idea. I think Von and Sam will love dressing up like flappers. And I can't say I wouldn't love looking at them. Have you talked to Samantha about it?"
"No, actually the idea just came to me. Let's wait until lunch to bring it up, okay?"
"Sure," Marcy agreed.
Before they had a chance to solidify what they wanted to do later in the evening, Samantha came out of the bathroom and looked around the room. "Looks like I'm not the last one dressed," she observed.
"Nope, it seems that Von is even slower than you are this morning."
No sooner were the words out of Marcy's mouth than the door was opened and the missing group member waltzed in. "So, is everyone ready to go eat?"
"Yeah," Alex smirked. "We haven't kept you waiting have we?"
"Not at all," Von giggled in response. She sauntered over to Marcy and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Samantha suggested they eat at the pancake house she had spotted within walking distance from the hotel. Since no one objected, the small group started on their Hollywood adventure.
About an hour later, the four friends were all walking along Hollywood Boulevard, in the direction of the concrete memorials to the stars. Samantha couldn't wait to compare her handprints and footprints with those of some of yesteryear's biggest celebrities. She was amazed at how small the impressions of Judy Garland's hands were, and she had a great time coaxing Alex to do some comparing of her own.
The friends took turns calling each other to gawk at some of the eccentric patterns in the cement. There were Sonja Henie's skate blades, George Burn's cigar, Bob Hope's nose, R2D2's tread marks, and Whoppi Goldberg's braid. The autographs alone kept the group reading for more time than Alex had anticipated spending at the theater.
Samantha even dared her lover to step into Darth Vader's footprints and laughed when her hero's feet were dwarfed by the giant prints in cement.
"You didn't really expect them to match, did you?" Alex shook her head at Samantha.
"Well, you're my hero, I just figured yours were as . . ."
A hand went across the smaller woman's mouth to stop the continuation of thoughts Alex didn't want broadcasted throughout the visiting throng. "Let's just keep the hero statements in the family, shall we?" The dark-haired beauty smiled and breathed a sigh of relief when she realized that Von and Marcy were too far away from them to have heard the conversation.
"Why, Alex," Samantha tittered. "I do believe you're blushing."
"I am not," the tall woman professed. "Are you ready to go get the car and go visit the tar pits?" Alex asked, as she changed the subject.
"Sure. You're the tour guide."
They found the other two women reading about the Oscar winners from various years, and Samantha joined them until everyone was satisfied that they had seen enough.
Von had never been to the pits either, and both she and Samantha were astonished when they saw the life-sized replicas of furry mammoths and saber-toothed cats standing in the black, bubbling tar in front of the museum.
"It's hard to believe that at one time this entire area was overrun by wild animals," Von stated as she stood looking into the pits.
"What do you mean," Alex joked. "It's still overrun by wild animals."
"Smart ass," Von countered. "Is the museum interesting, or is it like walking through the museum of art?"
"I like art museums," Samantha added to the conversation.
"You would," Marcy chuckled.
"What's that supposed to mean?" The blonde was not sure whether to be offended by her friend's remark or not.
"It's just that you artistic-types always seem to enjoy places of quiet reflection. Personally, I would rather be watching a volleyball or basketball game."
"Uh, huh," Samantha nodded comprehending the meaning of the statement. "I could be coerced to go to one of those games, not that I would understand everything that would be happening, but I imagine, if I were with the right people, I could still have a good time."
"Touch», Samantha," her friend smiled at her. "Are you ready to go explore the mysteries of days gone byççthe days when huge mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and dire wolves roamed free throughout this entire area?"
"I think we're all ready to go inside," Alex replied. "You know you'll enjoy this museum as much as the next person, Marcy." The tall brunette shook her finger in her friend's direction. "I can remember you standing for the longest stretch of time playing with that damned stick that's stuck in the tar. You wanted to prove that you were stronger than any of the rest of us that day, remember?"
Red-faced and without answering, Marcy grinned at Alex, shook her head, and then turned and walked toward the building, waving for her friends to follow.
The next few hours were lost in visions of the Ice Age and pictures of excavations. When they finished, Alex asked if they wanted to do the Walk of Fame first or eat lunch. The consensus turned out to be both. Marcy suggested that they eat somewhere along the Walk of Fame, which encompassed over five acres of bronze stars placed into the sidewalk lining Hollywood Boulevard from Gower to La Brea and on both sides of Vine Street down to Sunset. She was sure they could find a decent restaurant somewhere along the way, and that way they could also get the sightseeing accomplished at the same time.
Samantha hadn't realized that the Walk of Fame included not only people from the motion picture industry but also those from live theater, radio, television, and recording artists. She was like a kid in a candy shop as they walked along the boulevard. She would stop and squeal with delight each time she recognized a name. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and soon Von was giggling and pointing to the names as they passed the pink and charcoal terrazzo squares. Although the Egyptian Theater was running low on space for newcomers to make their mark in cement, there were plenty of empty stars yet to be filled with famous names along the streets of Hollywood.
At lunch Marcy and Alex brought up the idea of renting Roaring 20s costumes and spending the latter part of the evening at the restaurant and speakeasy in the Hotel. The other two women were thrilled with the idea and giggled in anticipation of becoming flappers for a night.
Alex mentioned that since they were in the area and still had the rest of the afternoon, it might be fun to get the costumes first and then drive over to West Hollywood and do some shopping, until it was closer to dinnertime. "There are some interesting stores in the area and an extremely unusual book establishment that's an all-time favorite of mine."
"The Bodhi Tree?" Marcy inquired.
"The one and only," Alex affirmed. "I figure we have time to pick out the costumes, go to the Bodhi, and then maybe stop at one or two of the crystal shops close by."
Everyone agreed that it sounded like an excellent way to spend the rest of the afternoon. Before leaving the restaurant, they asked the waiter if he knew where the closest costume shop was, and they were in luck because it was actually within walking distance.
Surprisingly, there were quite a few styles for the gals to choose from, and they had a grand time picking out what they wanted to wear. Samantha was the first to finish putting her ensemble together. She had found a beautiful emerald green, fringe-style flapper dress with head feathers and gloves to match. The salesperson brought out the jewelry that went along with the era, and Samantha picked out a long length of pearls, one she could wrap around her neck and still have them hanging long enough to swing. They even had matching shoes that fit.
Von was going to get one of the long lace dresses but she changed her mind at the last minute and got a Charleston dress, similar to Samantha's, except hers was red velvet and longer than the one the blonde was going to wear. Instead of dangling pearls, she decided on a choker.
While Von and Samantha were busy looking through the dresses, Alex and Marcy were picking through the gangster, bootlegger, and bodyguard garb. The two old friends went into a stall by themselves and refused to let the other two women see the costumes they had picked out.
"No fair, Alex," Samantha whined. "We modeled our outfits for you."
"First off, the Fair is in Pomona, Samantha," the taller woman smiled at the pouting blonde. "Second, you had to show us what you were wearing so we could go and pick out something that would match. Be a sport and be surprised."
"Oh, okay," Sam agreed, quickly changing her frown to a smile. "This is going to be so much fun!"
While they were checking out, Alex added fishnets, a white boa, and a long cigarette holder to Samantha's list of accessories.
"We're going to a lot more places than you had mentioned on the way here, Alex," Samantha commented as they walked back to the hotel to get the car.
"It seems the more we walk around the city, the more I remember all the places there are to see. One of these times we'll have to come back and go up to the Magic Castle for dinner. I think you'll really like that, Samantha."
"I like any place that I go with you, Alex. Everything is new to me here, so it's all exciting." She put her hand in her lover's as they continued toward their vehicle.
"Next stop Melrose Avenue and the Bodhi Tree. Marcy, do you want to give the girls a little run down on the history of the place?"
"Sure, I think I remember the speech all the newbies get on their first visit," she smiled at her friend in the front seat. "Let's see, I guess the best place to start would be with what a bodhi tree is and where it originated. Metaphysically, the bodhi tree is known as the 'Tree of Enlightenment.' The particular tree of legend grew upon the banks of an auxiliary of the Ganges River. It was said that the Buddhas received enlightenment when sitting under the tree meditating.
"When the owners of the Bodhi Tree originally opened its doors, they had a small potted tree sitting in the front window. As the years passed, the tree thrived and needed to be transplanted. The bodhi on Melrose Avenue is now nearly three stories high and is an easy landmark to note when instructing people on how to get to the bookstore.
"The store itself is no less a landmark as you'll see when you get there. I can still remember the first time Aurora dragged Alex and me up to West Hollywood, kicking and screaming that we didn't want to spend a perfectly good Saturday stuck in the confines of a stupid bookstore. Boy, did we regret the fuss we made! It is one of the most tranquil and relaxing places in this busy city, and even though it's extremely busy, you never feel a sense of being rushed.
"There, boss lady, how was that for an introduction to one of the most popular bookstores in the Los Angeles area?" Marcy turned and grinned at her friend.
"I'd have to say on a scale of one-to-ten you did pretty good. I'd give you an eight."
"What do you mean an eight?"
"You didn't bother to mention what kind of a book store it basically is," Alex countered.
"Don't you think they ought to be able to see that for themselves?"
"Okay, you two, enough," Von interrupted.
"Besides," Samantha joined in, "I think we're coming upon it now if your description was correct." She pointed out the window at the house with the distinguished tree gracefully shading the backyard.
"Good eyes, Sammie," Marcy praised.
"Or a very good description of what we were looking for," Samantha complimented and watched as her friend smiled sarcastically at Alex.
"Okay, let's give ourselves an hour in here. In case we get separated, we'll meet out here by the car, agreed?" Alex asked the rest of her small group. They all did.
She mentioned that if they only stayed an hour that would give them an hour to spend at the crystal shop, also, before having to return to the hotel to dress for dinner.
True to Alex's words, Samantha was enthralled the minute she stepped into the eclectic establishment. The smell of incense wafted through the air, titillating her senses and immediately causing her body to begin to relax. "What is that scent, Alex; do you know?"
"Smells like Nag Champa Satya Sai Baba to me," her lover answered and received a questioning look from the blonde. "It's one of the more popular incenses imported from India," Alex explained.
"I can understand why, but it's certainly a mouthful to say. Do you think we could get some to take home?"
"Sure, but I have a feeling you'll be picking up more than you can carry around with you by the time you get through all the rooms."
They continued to walk through the store. Samantha couldn't help but comment on how organized the shop seemed to be. Unlike some of the larger bookstores that Samantha knew and loved, this place had a feeling of home. They traveled from room to room, observing the patrons sitting in comfortable chairs and reading excerpts from their favorite books; mandalas and paintings adorned the walls. There was herbal tea for anyone who was thirsty, and a feeling of peace and tranquility emanated from every corner.
Marcy and Von separated from their friends and ventured into the section on Wicca, Runes, and Shamanism. Alex steered Samantha in the direction of the Reiki books, and then to those on reincarnation. They passed by an area with how-to books, and Samantha picked up an interesting book on Feng Shui. "Do you have any books like this one at home?" she asked her mate.
"As a matter of fact, I think I do," Alex answered. "We can check it out at home, and if I don't have one you want, we can either come back up some weekend or you can order one online or over the phone."
"Great, then I'll just put this one back."
By the time they were ready to check out, Alex had her arms full. Samantha had picked up a book on chakram healing and a set of runes and a book to go with them that Von had pointed out to her when they found themselves together in one of the smaller rooms. Both Alex and Sam had fallen in love with a Tibetan mandala that they swore had been made to hang in front of one of the windows in their bedroom. By the time they were done admiring the decorative object, neither one of them could have left the shop without it.
"I've never seen so many books on mysticism, philosophy, metaphysics, and spiritual topics all in one place before," Samantha noted as they stood in the checkout line. "And, I noticed Mom's books and tapes are all in here."
"Yeah, she's a pretty big seller here," Alex acknowledged as she stepped up to pay for their items. She was immediately recognized and greeted by the clerk. The ebony-haired beauty felt her face flush slightly when Samantha squeezed her hand at the clerk's recognition. She bent down enough to whisper in her lover's ear, "Sometimes it goes with the territory. Wait until you become famous."
"As if," Samantha answered with a chuckle.
They spotted Marcy and Von already at the car and hurried to catch up with their friends.
The final stop before they had to get back to the hotel and clean up for dinner was the crystal shop Alex had mentioned earlier. Alex had called the hotel to make reservations for dinner at 8:30 and found out that they had a dinner show on Saturday evenings, so their timing was perfect. Instead of the time she had anticipated, they needed to be seated by 8 o'clock sharp because that was when they started serving.
"I don't want to hurry anyone through the store, but we should be back at the hotel in about an hour to give us plenty of time to change. Remember, we don't live so far that we can't come back and visit, and I'm sure they also have a catalogue or a website you can order from."
"No one thinks you're being pushy, Alex; you're just being the general," Von chimed in as they walked into the building.
"Yeah, we all know you're the boss," Marcy added, smiling at her friend.
"Hey, stop picking on her," Samantha stepped in and stood in front of Alex as if to defend her.
"Oh, I'm scared," Marcy laughed, her hands up in front of her in an "I give up" position.
"Okay, enough funny stuff," Alex ended the conversation. "We're short on time, so you can stand here and be comedians or we can shop.
"Shop is my vote," Samantha admitted.
"Mine, too," Von agreed.
"Gods, Alex! I don't think I've ever seen so many rainbow objects in one room at the same time." Samantha picked up a small crystal ball and gazed into it. "This is lovely, and look, the stand is comprised of three unicorns." Her fingers tingled as she touched the perfectly clear globe, and a chill ran through her body. She quickly shook off the feeling when she felt Alex's hand touch her own.
"You know it would look right at home on the bar in the family area, and it would certainly be a conversation piece." Alex watched, while Samantha continued to examine the sphere and the cradle it was meant to rest in.
When Sam started to turn the crystal in her hand over to look at the price, a larger hand covered her own. "Honey," Alex whispered, "that's one of the things you can start forgetting to do. If you like something, we'll get it. You don't have to check the price, okay?"
Samantha looked up into sapphire eyes that displayed the love the dark-haired beauty felt for her. She nodded her head. "It would be a great conversation piece, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, it would, and you can consider it ours," Alex asserted.
A few more trinkets and a pair of crystal earrings later, the four friends were once again on their way to the hotel. Alex and Marcy had decided that they would dress in Marcy and Von's room and that Samantha and Von could dress in the other room.
"You mean we won't get to see what you're wearing until you . . ."
"Come and pick you up," Alex finished Samantha's sentence for her.
"Add a little spice to the evening," Marcy agreed as they exited the elevator. Alex handed Samantha the bag containing the dresses and accessories.
"I added a few items I don't think you saw." Alex smiled at her lover with one eyebrow slightly raised.
Samantha simply grinned back at her, shaking her head, as she took the bag from Alex's outstretched hand.
"I need to get a few things from the room first," Von announced.
"Sure, but you'd better hurry; you only have one hour to get dressed," Marcy reiterated to her partner.
Two teenagers couldn't have had more fun than Samantha and Von did as they donned the costumes they had rented for the evening. They giggled together, trying to imagine what their partners in the next room had picked to wear.
"Oh, Vonnie, look," Samantha squealed as she drew the long cigarette holder out of the bag. "I get to play the vamp tonight."
"But you don't smoke."
"No, but I can pretend." The blonde waved the holder around in mock Bette Davis fashion. "Dahling," she enunciated with grand exaggeration.
Her dramatic debut was cut short by a sharp knock on the adjoining door.
"Who's there?" Von questioned, as if she didn't know.
"Youse dolls ready to go dinin' and dancin'?" The voice was definitely Marcy's, the accent East Coast.
"Wouldya listen to that, Sammie; they want to know if we're ready." Von raced to the door and opened it then stepped back, her hands across her face.
"By the gods!" Samantha exclaimed. "Would you look at the two of you."
Alex was the first to walk in. "You look great, Samantha, but I think that holder of yours is lacking something."
Samantha was frozen in place for a second before she exclaimed, "Alex, you look . . . wow! Turn around and let me get the full impact."
With her hands in her pockets, Alex slowly spun around, sporting a black hat, jacket, and shirt. She wore a white tie, and a pinstriped vest with pants that matched. Spats set the outfit off nicely. She opened her jacket to expose a shoulder holster and gun. "I've always wanted to love a moll," the dark-haired beauty announced as she drew Samantha close.
"Oh, and to be a gangster's doll has always been my life's ambition," the small blonde chuckled, as she fingered the fake gun. "Honey, I don't think they'll let you into the restaurant with this, even if isn't real."
"I know that," Alex stated. "I just wanted to see how it looked to have the entire outfit on. So . . . whatd'ya think, kiddo?"
"I think you're the most beautiful gangster I've ever laid eyes on," Samantha answered.
"Hey, what about me?" Marcy asked.
"Well, let me have a look at you, too." Samantha turned her attention away from the gorgeous figure standing in front of her and looked at her friend.
Marcy wore a similar black hat, shirt, and pants, with a white tie. Instead of a vest, she was wearing suspenders, and she, too, had a shoulder holster and gun.
"I must say the two of you very much look the part. Are you Alex's bodyguard?"
"You bet your sweet ass, little lady, and yours, too," Marcy answered in her roughest New York accent. "And yours, too," she continued as she took Von into her arms. "So, youse ready to go eat?"
"Just as soon as you two hoodlums get rid of the metal works," Von scolded. "I don't want to be escorted out of the hotel at gunpoint by the real thing. But I do have to admit they add to the costume and would be fantastic at a party where everyone knew they were plastic."
Reluctantly, the gangster and the bodyguard relieved themselves of their holsters and guns. Alex took a pack of cigarettes out of her jacket pocket and inserted one in Samantha's holder. "What's a cigarette holder without the real thing?" She smiled as Sam waved the prop around, pretending she was smoking.
"Okay, you clowns, let's get going before we don't have a good seat for the show." Marcy stood by the now open door and beckoned the stragglers to hurry.
Double takes and side-glances by the hotel guests as the foursome walked by kept the friends smiling all the way to the lower level of the hotel and the speakeasy entrance. The maitr» d' was quite impressed when the women arrived at his station, and after the handshake he received from Alex, he was even more pleased to seat them at the best table in the room.
The dinner was exquisite, and the entertainment started as the dessert was being served. They sat, watched, and listened as the performers on stage took the audience back to a bygone era in dance and song. When the show was over, the band continued to play, and Alex was not going to let Samantha get away without showing how the fringe on her outfit moved to the music of the Roaring 20s.
"I thought you didn't like to fast dance," Samantha reminded her mate, trying to keep from having to get out onto the dance floor.
"I don't like to do the fast dancing of today," was her lover's answer. "But the Charleston is something totally different."
"What if I said I don't know how to Charleston?"
"Then I'd teach you. I want to see you shimmy and shake." Alex took her by the hand and led her out to the floor. "So, do you know how to Charleston?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Samantha confessed. "We did a show in high school with a number in it. I never thought I'd be using the steps ever again."
The four costumed guests continued to amaze the rest of the customers as they danced to music that had been popular years before any of them were ever born. After one obviously reminiscent dance, an older couple sent a bottle of champagne over to the table and had the waiter thank the women for bringing back beautiful memories of stamina and youth. They drank a toast to their benefactors and made sure to stop by their table and talk for a while between dances.
The remainder of the evening sped by, and before anyone knew it, the band was playing a goodnight song, letting everyone know it was closing time.
"All good things must end," Alex whispered into Samantha's ear as they danced the final dance.
"Not all good things, my love," Samantha whispered back.
"Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?"
"I believe you made mention of the fact a few times throughout the evening." The blonde chuckled because she sensed that Alex was perhaps feeling her champagne. "You look quite debonair yourself," Samantha made sure to add.
"Always, with you at my side," Alex countered. She discreetly kissed Samantha on the cheek, and then walked her off the dance floor and over to where Marcy and Von were standing ready to leave.
"That was a great evening," Von announced as they entered the elevator.
"I think we all had a lot of fun," Marcy agreed.
"So, how are we going to dress the next time we go out dancing," Samantha asked, grinning.
"Oh, we'll think of something," Alex answered.
Upon reaching their respective rooms, the couples said goodnight. Alex reminded Marcy that checkout time was 10:30 a.m., so they needed to be up and packed by then.
With final goodnights, they parted company.
"So, my little flapper," Alex began when the door was closed and they were finally alone. "Fringe definitely does you justice."
"Oh, you just like to watch me shimmy," Samantha answered.
"Guilty as charged," Alex agreed. "But even more than I like to see you in that outfit, I would like to see you out of it right about now."
"Aren't you tired, after all that dancing and . . ."
"Not really," Samantha admitted.
"Well . . ."
"How about a quick shower?"
Coat, tie, shirt, shoes, dress, boa, feather, stockingsççall lay scattered on the floor leading to the bathroom as the two lovers entered the tiled area totally out of costume and back to the present day.
Minutes later their sweet smelling bodies lay wrapped around each other in the middle of the large bed.
"I can thank you right now for this marvelous weekend, Alex, but remind me when we get started home to thank Marcy and Von again for the tickets to Ellen. After all, that's what prompted this little trip."
"I will, sweetheart," Alex promised.
Pulling the smaller woman on top of her, Alex ran her fingers through silken hair. She gently pushed back the locks from the delicate face and then brought Samantha's face down close to her own. Alex showered Samantha with butterfly kisses before drawing her even closer for a kiss of passion and desire. "My entire body is on fire," the beautiful brunette crooned into her lover's ear.
Samantha could feel Alex's nipples as they responded to her soft touch. Then, with one swift motion their positions were reversed, and the taller woman was on top, slowly inching her body down her lover's, with fingers longing to touch every inch of skin between the top of Samantha's head and the bottom of the smaller woman's feet.
Alex's fingers, tongue, lips, and even her teeth gently raked across the pale skin, so soft to the touch.
Moans of pleasure and fervent hunger filled the small room high above Hollywood Boulevard.
"Do you suppose someone famous might have slept in this . . ."
"Samantha, hush," Alex whispered as she began to taste the moist sweetness of her lover. "I love it when you get this hot."
Starting at the back of Samantha's ankles, Alex's adept hands traveled up toward her lover's thighs and behind her knees, lifting the smaller woman to within easy reach of her mouth as she held Samantha up off the bed.
"That's right, Samantha, move for me," Alex prompted, and she found herself being bathed in the warmth of her soulmate's body.
Letting go of the blonde's legs and placing her hands beneath Samantha, the smaller woman's legs draped over Alex's shoulders, while the dark-haired beauty's tongue played within the recesses of pliant folds beneath fair curls.
Unable to keep still, her hands escaped from under the firm buttocks to gently caress nipples that were ripe with passion. She could feel Samantha's heart beat increase as her tongue found refuge on the swollen bud, and she kept a steady rhythm until Samantha practically screamed for her to go faster.
"Faster than this?" the brunette teased as she increased her speed only slightly.
"Gods, Alex," Samantha moaned, her hands on either side of the beautiful face she loved. She looked down and caught the twinkle of two dark eyes and a face dimly lit by the scattering of neon light drifting up through the window from the street below.
Alex studied Samantha's face attentively, while her tongue continued to work its magic.
The next cry from Samantha was one of rapture. She now entreated Alex to stop. When Alex did remove her tongue from the throbbing bud, it was only to trade one form of heaven for another. She slowly slipped into the smaller woman with her index, middle, and ring fingers, and the dance of love began anew.
The taller woman drew her body up next to Samantha's and then turned on her back, maneuvering Sam to first be lying prone on top of her and then encouraging the blonde to sit up.
As her fingers reached their highest peaks inside her lover, Alex told Samantha to touch her simultaneously. "Just place your palm and push . . . what are you doing?"
"I will not just push," Samantha countered as she effortlessly went from straddling Alex's body to straddling only one leg. Her hand went down to play among the ebony locks, and her fingers soon found sanctuary within the moistness of her lover's appetite.
Together the intensity of the moment grew. Alex could feel the pounding begin inside her lover's body, and her own passion growing with every thrust of the smaller woman's fingers.
There was a release of wetness that slipped between her fingers, covered her hand, and dripped down to mingle with her own moisture when she climaxed. Samantha leaned forward and placed her head upon Alex's chest.
The street below continued to bustle with excitement in the early morning hours, while two lovers found their way to mutual satisfaction and then lay exhausted with their arms wrapped around each other.
"Sounds of the city are certainly different from those of the ocean, aren't they, my Destiny?" Alex questioned.
"Yes, they are, my love," Samantha answered. "But I can guarantee, I'll sleep as peacefully as I do at home with my ear to your chest. The only sound that will lull me to sleep will be that of the beat of your heart."
The only rush for the morning was to leave the hotel rooms before departure time, and the small group did that with exactly five minutes to spare.
Samantha was still in the bathroom when Alex opened the door to tell her that all she had to do was put whatever was on the counter into the overnight bag and bring it down with her.
"Marcy and I'll meet you and Von downstairs at the receptionist's desk. Just lock the doors behind you. We have everything else with us."
"Okay, Alex," Samantha answered with her mouth full of toothpaste. "I'll just be a minute."
The door between the rooms was open, and when Samantha came out of the bathroom she greeted Von. "Guess we have a reputation for being the stragglers."
"Yeah, but it's a lot easier on the back," Von grinned. She finished packing her own small bag and gave her room a final check before joining Samantha.
"Alex is usually more than thorough when we leave, but I guess I should take a last glance around this place, too." Samantha opened all the drawers and checked the closet, finding not a shred of their belongings left behind. "I knew she'd be meticulous; she always is." She walked to the window and looked down. "I want one more glimpse of Hollywood Boulevard from this height before we leave."
The two women stood beside each other and observed the busy street below. "I don't think this city ever sleeps," Samantha stated.
"I imagine you're right, Sam. I'll bet LA is running New York a close second in being a place where you can find whatever you want almost any time you want it."
"And like New York, it's a great place to visit, but I don't think I'd want to live here," Samantha confessed. "I like the solitude we have in Laguna and the sound of the ocean singing us to sleep at night. I like the cool sand between my toes on the mornings we make the time to walk along the beach, and the way the moonlight glistens on the surf as she floats high in the midnight sky."
"You truly are the romantic, Sammie," her friend grinned.
"How could I not be when I'm living the fairytale existence that every young girl dreams of?"
"This is trueççand if you want to keep that reality, I suggest we grab our bags and head for the nearest descending elevator."
Samantha agreed, and the two friends walked out of the hotel room in search of their mates.
First on the morning's activities was to return the rented costumes, then off to a leisurely brunch at a small restaurant with an ocean view. On the way back to Laguna, Marcy and Von decided that they would stop at the Center just long enough for a rest break and something to drink before continuing home. They both had to work on Monday and didn't want to be getting in too late.
Samantha made sure to once again thank her friends for the concert tickets, and before they left, they all made tentative plans to meet between their two cities for dinner sometime in the not too distant future.
After seeing Marcy and Von safely on their way, Samantha began unpacking. She was anxious to see how the crystal ball, in its beautiful holder, would look sitting in a place of honor on the bar. When she picked it up, she again felt a slight tingling that traveled throughout her entire body. The tingling started in her fingertips and radiated inward. It was a strange but not unpleasant feeling, and she was glad she had picked up a book on crystal gazing. This aspect of the occult was totally foreign to her, but she had an uncanny desire to learn more about it. She remembered how the orb almost seemed to call to her in the store and was glad Alex had talked her into buying it. While she stood pondering on the purchase she held in her hands, she felt heat emanating from the ball. Wow, must have something to do with the energy of the crystal. I need to do some studying, that's for sure.
"There," she mumbled, putting the clear object into the unicorn holder and standing back to admire it. "How do you think that looks, Alex?"
"Looks great, hon," Alex answered without looking up from the report she was reading.
"You didn't even look."
"Sure I did," the dark-haired woman fibbed as she looked over the top of a page in the direction of the crystal orb. "It looks marvelous, just like you imagined. It will definitely be a conversation piece." She smiled sheepishly and went back to her reading.
Samantha disappeared into the bedroom to finish unpacking, and when she came out she asked if Alex wanted a glass of wine.
"Sounds great, thanks, Samantha."
While in the kitchen, Samantha took inventory of the Post-it notes that dotted the calendar on the refrigerator. "Hey, Alex, do you realize that Halloween's less than a month away?"
"Yes," Alex responded. "I imagine we'll be hearing from Sonny in about two weeks, reminding us that we're spending All Hallows Eve in San Francisco with him and Ray. I hoped to be able to take to you to Key West for the annual parade they throw every Halloween, but I suppose that can wait until next year."
Samantha smiled, walked over to her lover, and handed her a glass of wine. "I think we've enough years left to put that trip off this one time." She sat down next to Alex on the couch. "Should we be thinking of costumes to wear for this gala? Maybe we could do the same thing we did this weekend? You looked marvelous."
"You looked pretty cute yourself there, flapper girl," Alex smiled and gave Samantha a quick kiss on the cheek. "But I do believe that Sonny said he would take care of our outfits. He'll probably dress us all alike. We'll be the four musketeers or something."
"I think you mean the three musketeers, don't you?"
"Yeah, but there are four of us. Anyhow, it's one less thing we have to worry about. Sonny has so much fun preparing for events like this that I wouldn't want to deny him the pleasure."
"That's fine with me," Samantha agreed. She placed her glass on the table beside the couch and proceeded to curl up and put her head in Alex's lap. "You know, Alex, this has been the bestççand longestççbirthday I've ever had." She turned over to look up into her lover's face. "I've never had a celebration quite like the one that's been ongoing since the day we went down to your parents' house. Even falling into an ancient cave turned into the adventure of a lifetime." She gave pause and ran her fingers along the Grecian jaw line of her beloved. "I have you to thank for all of it."
Alex took Samantha's hand and gently kissed her fingertips. "It wasn't half of what I could have done, Samantha, except for the episode in the caveççI had no part in the orchestration of that. Anything you want, all you have to do is ask, and if it's in my power to get it for you, it's yours."
"Oh, Alex, I have everything I want." Samantha grinned, and then added, "Not that there aren't things I won't ask for; be rest assured! I'm as human as the next gal. But what we have together is the way I always dreamed of life beingççminus the abundance of money," she giggled.
Alex leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "I guess my response should be a simple, you're welcome, Samantha. I wanted your first birthday with me to be memorable."
"Well you more than succeeded if that was your intention. But all this fun can be exhausting. Now I just want to take a little nap, and then I want to start unpacking some of those boxes you have stored in the other room."
"Ah, ha," Alex laughed. "You're going to start with my boxes before you empty out all the stuff you still have yet to unpack?"
"I already know what's in my boxes. Yours, on the other hand, are a mystery."
"And what if I don't want you unpacking my boxes?" The quizzical eyebrow rose and a crooked smile crossed the face of the dark-haired beauty.
"Oh, Alex," Samantha sat up and became very serious. "I'm sorry, I just assumed . . ."
"I'm kidding you, Samantha. You go right ahead and poke through anything your little heart desires. Just be aware that there was a time when you weren't around, and some things in those boxes may point that out to you more than others."
"I understand. I know you had a life before me, even if I didn't have one before you." Emerald green eyes looked soulfully into sapphire blue.
"Are you sure you want to start on a project that large this late on a lazy Sunday afternoon?" Alex asked. "Why don't we take that nap together, and then get up, go have some dinner, and perhaps take in one of those new movies you've been hinting that you want to see?"
All traces of the reflective mood disappeared from Samantha's eyes; they began to sparkle at the thought of going to the movies. "What if we call and ask Suz to go with us?"
"If you really want to, Samantha, but we've been with people all weekend. I thought perhaps just a quiet evening alone . . ."
Two small fingers gently touched her lover's lips as she quieted the remainder of the sentence. "Say no more. We'll ask Suz some other time. Tonight, it'll just be you and me. No argument here." She got up from the couch and reached for Alex's hand. "You ready to join me?"
"In a few minutes, honey. I just want to finish looking over this report."
"Fine. You don't want to share me with a friend, but I have to share you with the office?"
"Samantha, just a few . . ." She looked into the angelic face in front of her and grinned.
Samantha stood batting her eyes and wiggling her index finger in a come hither fashion.
"You really are a hoot, my Destiny," the tall woman announced. She put the papers back into the file on the table and stood up. Reaching out she grabbed the teasing digit and then pulled the smaller woman close. "Do you realize you have me wrapped around that finger of yours?"
Grinning from ear-to-ear Samantha nodded her head. "Yeah, I must admit, I knew you'd say that."