By Carrie Carr
Disclaimers: Here they are again. The first story, Just Like Old Times, was a short story from Delaney's point of view. Then, in Heart's Resolve, we got to know Gib a little better, and show you how they got together (the book is due to be released on May 10th, 2012). Now, here's a little short story that hopefully makes Just Like Old Times more palatable. Artistic license, and all that. J
The names, persons, places and events depicted in this story are completely fictional. So, I guess you could say they belong to me. Please don't borrow, post or steal without permission. I have to give a big shout out to my beta reader, Kay. She helped make sense of what I had started, way back after Heart's Resolve was completed.
I'd love to hear from you and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, check out my website for stories, info, and just the heck of it - www.CarrieLCarr.com . Thanks to the Academy munchkins who do so much for us all. You are the best!
Dedication: As always - this is for my amazing wife, Jan. Forever and always, my love.
© Carrie Carr, April 2012
So much pain, so much guilt…a jumble of scenes flashed through Delaney Kavanagh's mind.
She reached for the remote control and turned down the volume, almost desperate to relieve herself of the painful memories the love ballad brought about. It had been eight months since Delaney had seen or heard from her lover of four years, and the emotional wounds were as fresh as if it were yesterday. She looked across the room to the front door, which still bore marks from where she had thrown her coffee cup so many months earlier. Delaney closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair. Gib had always teased her about her fiery temper and jokingly referred to her hair as chili pepper red. Knowing that it was of her own making, the loneliness gnawed at her heavy heart.
A knock on her front door caused her to look at the clock on the VCR and frown. It was eight-thirty in the evening, and she hadn't been expecting anyone. When she opened the door, Delaney gasped in shock.
Gib stood quietly, her face creased in worry. Her white-blonde hair was longer, reaching her shoulders in a shaggy style. She appeared to have lost at least twenty pounds over the past eight months, and there were lines around her eyes that hadn't been there before. She forced a smile to her face. "Hi, Dee. I hope I haven't caught you at a bad time."
Gib jumped to her feet and crammed her hands into the front pockets of her jeans. "I shouldn't have come here," she muttered, turning her back and looking at the pictures on the mantel. She felt, rather than heard, Delaney get up and stand behind her, inches away. "Why can't I get you out of my mind, Dee?" Gib raised a shaky hand to pull one of the pictures down for a closer look. Taken the Christmas before they broke up, the photograph showed the two women in an embrace, Delaney kissing Gib, who was wearing a baseball cap with a sprig of mistletoe on the bill. "I loved you so damned much." Her voice was rough with sorrow.
"I loved you, too," Delaney admitted quietly. The anguished sound of Gib's struggle caused her hands to migrate to the other woman's shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Gib. I never meant to hurt you."
Kisses were exchanged, tears were shed. Delaney looked up into the anguished face of her lover. "Let's go to the bedroom, and we'll talk about it later." Although she didn't know where it would lead, for tonight, it was enough.
The buzz of the alarm woke Delaney and she rolled toward the middle of the bed. "Turn it off, honey. I don't want to work today," she mumbled as she reached for her lover. When her hand landed on a cold pillow she opened her eyes. "Gib?" She blinked and looked around the room. Her alarm wasn't sounding and she rubbed her eyes in confusion. She looked at her clock and frowned. "Nine-fifty?"
Delaney crawled out of bed. A sudden chill caused her to pick up her robe and slip it on over her long tee shirt. The bed was made, except for the small space where she had been sleeping, and she shook her head in confusion. "I thought…last night…" she glanced at the top of the dresser, where Gib always left her cell phone, watch and wallet. It was bare. "Gib?"
A quick peek in the bathroom added to her confusion. There were no streaks of toothpaste in the sink, and no damp towels hanging haphazardly from the shower rod, as was Gib's custom. It had often been the cause of many an argument between them, since Gib always said cleaning the bathroom could wait.
She shuffled into the dark living room and scratched her head. Nothing was out of place. Through the glass patio door she could see the snow lightly falling. "What's going on?" She shivered and returned to the bedroom. "Was it a dream?" Overcome with a wave of lethargy, Delaney removed her robe and climbed into bed. She wrapped herself in the heavy comforter and began to cry.
Hours later, Delaney felt a cool hand on her cheek. She groaned and rolled into the touch. "Mmm."
"Dee, sweetheart. Wake up."
Delaney shook her head. "No. Let me dream," she mumbled.
"Come on, Dee. Let me see those gorgeous eyes of yours." The voice sounded nervous, and the hand drifted down to her shoulder and began to softly shake her. "Come on, please."
"Noooo," Delaney moaned. She tried to move away, but now two hands were lifting her to a sitting position. "Stop."
"Dee, baby, you're burning up. Come on. Wake up for me," Gib pleaded.
Delaney forced one eye open. "Gib? Is that you?" In the semi-darkness of the room, she could barely make out Gib's features. "Why are you here?"
"The training ended early, and I headed directly home. I tried to call, but all I got was your voice mail." Gib brushed the unruly hair away from Delaney's face. "How long have you felt like this?"
"Huh?" Delaney closed her eye and swatted ineffectually at Gib. "Damn you. Quit messin' with me."
Gib held the redhead in her arms. "Sweetheart, I'm not sure what you're talking about." She used the edge of the sheet to wipe the perspiration off her lover's brow. "You're running a fever. How long have you been sick?"
"Not sick," Delaney argued weakly. "You left me," she accused, then began to cry. "I didn't mean to make you leave."
"What the-" Gib gently lowered her to the pillow. She went into the bathroom and brought back a wet washcloth and a digital thermometer. "Okay, let's see what's going on." Her nylon uniform jacket rustled and her duty belt creaked as she knelt beside the bed. She placed the cloth on Delaney's forehead. "Open up so I can take your temperature."
Delaney grumbled as Gib forced the probe between her lips. After sixty seconds, it beeped and disappeared. She tried to wrap herself tighter in the comforter as a draft caused her to shake.
Gib looked at the readout. "Damn." She set it on the nightstand and tried to wake her lover. "Dee? Sweetheart, I think you need a doctor." She started to get up, but her arm was grabbed.
"Don't leave me again," Delaney sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
"No, baby. I'm here." Gib helped her sit up and covered Delaney with her robe. "Come on, let's get you checked out."
Delaney's eyes opened fully, but weren't focused. "No! You can't leave me!" She gripped Gib's shirt with both hands. "Please!"
Gib chook her head. "No, sweetheart. I'm not leaving." She lifted Delaney in her arms and cradled her against her chest. "You're going to be okay," she vowed, as much to herself as to the woman she held.
Rousted from a deep sleep, Delaney pried open her eyes. The unfamiliar room caused her to panic, until her mother's face came into view. Her voice was rough and she had to clear her throat before speaking. "Mom?"
"Sssh, it's all right." Maureen sat on the edge of the hospital bed and brushed the hair away from her daughter's pale face. "You're going to be just fine."
Delaney tried to sit up, but was too weak. She gripped her mother's hand with what little strength she had. "What happened?"
"What's the last thing you remember?" Maureen pushed the call button on the bed.
"Nurses station. How may I help you?"
Maureen smiled at Delaney. "Hi, my daughter has just woken up."
"Thank you. I'll let the doctor know."
Delaney tugged on their joined hands. "Mom?" Her questioned trailed off with a heavy cough, which caused her to close her eyes against the dizziness.
"You've been pretty sick, honey. But don't worry, I'm sure everything will be fine." Maureen got off the bed when an older man stepped into the room. "Hello, Dr. Tyler."
The rumpled lab coat barely covered his overweight frame. His wire-frame glasses were too large for his face, and his khaki slacks appeared to have been slept in. He made a notation in Delaney's file before addressing them. "How are you feeling, Ms. Kavanagh?"
"Tired. And confused," she hoarsely admitted. "What happened?"
Dr. Tyler gave her a quick exam and wrote more notes in the file. "You had a particularly nasty strain of the flu. If you hadn't been brought in when you were, I'm afraid the prognosis would have been much grimmer." He nodded to Maureen. "Barring any unforeseen complications, I believe we'll be able to release your daughter day after tomorrow."
"So soon? That's wonderful." Maureen shook his hand. "Thank you, Doctor."
Once the doctor had left, Delaney gestured for Maureen to sit beside her. "How long have I been here?"
"You were brought in Friday night and today is Tuesday." Maureen patted her arm. "When your father and I got into town late Saturday afternoon, we dropped everything and rushed right over." They had been on vacation in Las Vegas for the past week, and hadn't seen or spoken to Delaney since before they left. "I'm just so thankful for Gib."
Delaney bit her lip. "Gib?" Her dreams and realities were fighting for dominance in her mind. She was unsure what was real. "Where is she?" she asked softly.
"Probably cursing at work, if this morning was any indication. I've never heard her use that kind of language before," Maureen supplied with a laugh. When she saw that her daughter wasn't laughing with her, she stopped. "What's wrong?"
"I, um…I'm not sure." Delaney frowned. "Has she been here?"
Maureen cocked her head and stared at her daughter. "Of course she has. I could barely get her to leave your side. She's been staying here at night, and I come in the mornings. Your father joins me for the afternoons, as soon as he makes sure all the jobs are running smoothly. Gib got called in to play shuttle driver this morning, and she wasn't very happy about it. She was supposed to be able to take the entire week off, but then her boss called." She brushed her hand along Delaney's cheek. "Why do you ask? Are you two having any trouble?"
"Are we?" Delaney coughed as she tried to clear the cobwebs from her mind. "Things are so confusing right now."
"Sssh. Just lie back and get some rest. I'm sure everything will clear up for you." Maureen gave her a light head scratch, which always helped her fall asleep as a child. As Delaney's eyes closed, Maureen started softly humming an old tune.
Benton State Park had two pavilions that could be rented. Inside of the smaller one, Gib stood at the back of a group of men who were arguing. She was stuck with a dozen park directors and assistants. They had taken seats at the long, barren banquet tables that were coated in a light layer of dust. The electricity was on, but the building didn't have a heater since it was used primarily in the warmer months. Gib had been listening to the men for the past four hours. She moved closer and held up her hand. "Excuse me." She sighed as she was ignored again.
"I still say that we're going to have to put the employees on twelve hour shifts during the day, and have someone on call for the nights. We can't afford to keep people on the job twenty-four hours a day," the most argumentative director bellowed, effectively cutting off Gib.
Clint took off his hat. His nerves were already shot. Even as cool as the building was, he had to brush a handkerchief over his perspiring, bald head. "With all due respect, Ray, I don't think overworking what few employees we have left is a valid idea."
"Not all of us are as soft as you, Wright. My park doesn't have the luxury of a swimming pool or leasable buildings. All I have are thousands of acres of land, with rough campsites scattered about." Ray Olsen looked around the clean building. "I don't appreciate having to meet out here on your turf. We should have rented a banquet room in town."'
"That's not the best way to save the State money, now is it?" Clint argued. "Besides, the only reason we're here and not in Dallas is because of the ice storm there. You're lucky we only got snow. And I do apologize for not having this building set up for a more comfortable meeting. But you fellas were dumped out at the Benton airport, and I think you should be thankful my assistant director was able to find a way to get y'all out here on such short notice." He nodded toward Gib. "Speaking of which, what's the news, Officer Proctor?"
Gib stepped forward and removed her pearl-colored, felt western hat. "I spoke to the manager at Rodrigo's, and she's assured me we're more than welcome to take over their banquet room this afternoon. I've also booked double rooms at the Sundown Motel, which is right across the street from the restaurant. They've agreed to shuttle everyone to their flights tomorrow. Weather permitting, of course."
"Well done, Gib." Clint exhaled and gestured toward the door. "Shall we, everyone? I don't know about you, but my stomach is gnawing on my backbone." He watched as the group milled out of the building and into the rented vans. More than one man complained about the snow and ice, but they were soon all seated. "I'm really sorry to have called you in like this, Gib," he apologized once they were alone. "How's Delaney?"
"Her fever broke last night, so I'm hoping she'll come out of it soon."
Clint patted her on the back. "I'm sure she will. It was rotten timing, her coming down sick while you were at the training seminar in Austin." He walked outside with Gib and locked the door behind them. "Once we get these, um, gentlemen into town, why don't you take the rest of your time off?"
Gib put her hat on and nodded. "Thanks, Clint. Just ask for Maddy at Rodrigo's, she's getting the room ready. I'll stop by the rental agency for my truck, and ask one of our 'guests' to drive to the restaurant." The cell phone on her hip vibrated as she walked toward a van. She took it off her duty belt and looked at the text message. "Yes! Thank you, Maureen." With a renewed sense of purpose, Gib jogged the rest of the way to the vehicles, her boots sliding on the muddy snow.
A gentle caress along her cheek made Delaney slowly open her eyes. The face that welcomed her was tan and healthy, and the brown eyes glittered with unshed tears. "Gib?"
"Hey, beautiful lady," Gib whispered roughly. She cleared her throat. "How are you feeling?"
Delaney raised her hand and touched Gib's face. "Okay, I think." The loving kiss on the palm of her hand was almost her undoing. "I'm a little confused."
"That's understandable, as sick as you've been." Gib held Delaney's hand between hers and kissed it again. "I'm sorry I wasn't here when you woke up."
"Um, no. That's okay. I'm sure you had other things to do."
Gib shook her head. "Nothing's more important than you, sweetheart." She gave her lover a light kiss on the lips.
"I know this is going to sound stupid, but could you tell me something?"
Gib smiled and used her free hand to touch Delaney's hair, as if to assure herself that the redhead was truly all right. "I'll do my best."
"The last time I woke up," Delaney coughed and hard to pause a moment, "at home, I was all alone. Wasn't I?"
"Yeah." Gib looked away in shame. "I'm really sorry about that. Next time Clint wants to send me to some asinine training seminar, I'm taking you with me."
Delaney tugged on her hand until Gib's eyes were focused on her. "We're not separated?"
"What?" Gib started to shake her head. "No, baby. No. Why would you think that way?" She lowered her voice. "Do you want to be? I mean, I know I wasn't there for you when you got sick, but-"
"Wait." Delaney frowned and tried to make sense of her thoughts. "Do you remember the big fight we had? The one where you wanted to go out to the lake and I was trying to get a job finished?"
Gib nodded. "Yeah. That was a bad one. I didn't realize how much pressure you were under at the time." She stopped. "Wait a minute. That was a good eight months ago. You're not still sore about that, are you? I mean, yeah, I shouldn't have walked out when you were so angry." She shrugged. "But I came back after I walked around the building and cooled off. I'd never just leave without working things out. I thought we resolved all that back then."
Things were starting to become clearer for Delaney. "We did, didn't we?" The memory of the particularly steamy make up session caused her to blush. "It was all a dream, then," she whispered.
"A dream? What did you dream about?"
"The fight we had. Only, instead of you coming back, you went to the lake." Delaney tried to fight the tears the memory brought. "I yelled at you and threw my coffee cup, and told you that if you left, not to bother coming back. Then it was now, and you weren't here." She started to cry.
Gib sat on the bed and pulled her lover into her arms. "Sssh. It's okay, Dee. You know I'd never leave you." She kissed the top of Delaney's head and gently rocked her.
"In," Delaney sobbed, "in my dream, I didn't see you for months. And it wasn't summer. There was snow, like there is now. It seemed so real. And when you did come back, you were pale. And sick-looking." She buried her face in Gib's uniform shirt and continued to cry. "Really sick."
"Dee, I want you to look at me."
It took her several minutes to calm down, but Delaney finally raised her head. "Okay," she wheezed.
"Do I look the least bit sick to you?"
Delaney shook her head.
"Because of my job, I get a complete checkup every year, don't I?" At her lover's nod, Gib smiled. "My last one was less than four months ago, remember?"
"Yes, I do. Now." Delaney began to smile as well. "And you were out of town last week for a training seminar."
Gib rolled her eyes. "If you want to call it that, yeah. More like a bunch of guys standing around seeing who had the biggest-" her mouth was covered by a hand.
"I don't want to know." Delaney put her arms around Gib's neck and hugged her. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Gib whispered in her ear. She pulled back far enough to kiss Delaney, who happily reciprocated.
A loud sigh from the doorway caused them to break apart. "I swear, Gibsy. Leave the poor woman alone," Madina Ramirez-Winslow scolded. "You've only been gone a week."
"Who asked you?" Gib grumbled. She kissed her lover's cheek and scooted off the bed. "I thought I told you to keep an eye on my girl." She gave her best friend a hug. "Some help you are."
"Giiiib." Delaney drew out the word slowly. "Don't you dare."
Gib turned and tried to appear innocent. "What?"
Maddy poked Gib in the stomach and sat on the bed beside Delaney. "It's good to see you awake, Delaney. That big ol' goober has been driving me nuts since she brought you in."
"I have not," Gib argued. She circled around the bed and sat on the other side. "As usual, Maddy exaggerates."
Delaney crooked her finger at Gib, beckoning her to come closer.
"Hmm?" Gib leaned close until her ear was grabbed. "Hey!"
"Now listen to me, officer. You can be all big and tough at work. Don't be trying that with me." Delaney gave the ear an extra tug before releasing it. "Understood?"
Gib failed to keep the silly grin off her face. "Got it, boss."
"Ha!" Maddy pointed at Gib. "You're soooo, ow!" She rubbed her arm where Delaney pinched it.
Delaney opened her mouth to speak, but began to cough instead. She waved off the offers of assistance from both women. "I think I've had enough fun for one day," she gasped, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "Maddy, would you do me a big favor?"
"Of course, jefa."
"Take my 'big goober' home and make sure she eats something, will you?"
Maddy stood and bowed. "It would be my pleasure." She kissed the redhead's cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow." To Gib, she snapped her fingers. "Don't take too long, Gibsy. I don't want my brother burning down the restaurant."
Gib glared at her until she left the room. She turned to Delaney. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"
"I'm sure." Delaney sipped the water Gib handed her. "You look exhausted." She held up her hand to forestall any argument by her lover. "I want you to go with Maddy and get something to eat. Then go home, take a nice, hot shower and get some sleep."
"I'm used to staying here at night, Dee. It's not a problem." Gib took Delaney's hand and cradled it between both of hers. "I'm not going to be able to sleep with you stuck in here, so I might as well stay."
Delaney pulled her nearer until Gib was sitting on the bed beside her. "Damn it, Gib! I'm only going to say this once, so listen very closely," she rasped, "I'll rest much better if I know you're taking care of yourself." She rested her head against her pillows and took a few shallow breaths.
Gib brushed her hair back. "Let me get the nurse."
"No, I'm okay. Just a little too much excitement today. I'll be fine after a good night's rest." She closed her eyes and relaxed. After a minute, Delaney opened one eye. "Are you still here?"
"Um, yeah." Gib laughed and kissed her lightly on the lips. "Call me if you if need me." She backed away from the bed. "I love you, Dee."
Delaney raised one hand and wriggled her fingers. "Hey, Gib?"
"I'll always need you." She blew her lover a kiss. "I love you, officer. Bring me something good for breakfast, okay?"
Gib nodded and picked up her hat that she had set on a shelf by the door. "You got it, pretty lady." She got as far as the door when a hand grabbed her by the back of her duty belt.
"Come on, Gibsy. Let the poor woman get some sleep." Maddy waved over her friend's shoulder. "See you tomorrow, Delaney." She dragged Gib away, teasing her all the way down the hall.
After what felt like one of the longest weeks of her life, Delaney woke early on Saturday morning, feeling more like her old self. She cautiously took a deep breath. The tightness in her chest had disappeared. "Finally." The constant cough had exhausted her more than the illness.
She rolled over and stared at Gib's profile as she slept. Her lover wasn't what most would consider beautiful. At forty-six, Gib's tanned face held its share of lines, mostly from smiling and laughing. Her blonde hair, bleached almost white by the years spent in the sun, barely brushed the edge of her collar. While she wasn't overweight, her stocky build suited her and delighted her lover. Delaney lightly ran her finger across Gib's muscular arm. She had always been attracted to strong women, and the Park Officer was no exception. "You're perfect," she whispered.
Gib's face turned toward the voice as she awakened. The skin around her light brown eyes crinkled as she smiled. "Good morning, beautiful." She shifted so that she mirrored Delaney's position on the bed. "You're awake early."
Delaney caressed Gib's cheek as she softly remarked, "I love you so much."
"I love you, too." Gib kissed her palm and smiled. "Not that I'm complaining, but what brought that on?"
"Do I need a reason?"
"Nope." Gib barely got the word out before her mouth was covered by Delaney's. She ran her hand over her lover's back and rolled back, enjoying the feel of Delaney's body across hers. When she felt a hand slid between their bodies, Gib broke away from the kiss. "How are you feeling?" she gasped as the hand arrived at a very sensitive spot.
Delaney laughed and gently bit Gib on the collarbone. "With my hands, obviously. Or can't you tell?"
"Um, well," Gib squeaked at the sudden touch. "Oh, yeah."
The End…or is it? J
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