Disclaimers: The characters portrayed in this story are the property of CD McKendry. This story portrays scenes of mild violence and the occasional 'four-letter word'. If this offends you, please do not read any further. Also be advised that this story involves two women in a sexual relationship so once again, if this offends you do not read any further. Finally, this is my first attempt at writing anything since about a hundred years ago when I was once a school girl so if this worries you (and it probably should), please do not read any further. If you find anything truly offensive…or if you just want to say hi (which, by the way, I much prefer), please feel free to drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For those of you that are left, please enjoy.
WAR, PEACE, UNDERSTANDING & LOVE
Kris knew once she made her decision that there would be no going back. She was quite simply feeling like a dog that had been kicked one to many times. If she didn't get out now, she was going to start biting back.
Once Kris reached home, she threw together some of her clothes and the little bit of cash that she had managed to save over the last few years. Unable to stand the thought of another fight with her so-called father, she decided to wait until after they went to bed before leaving.
It was hard for Kris to know that this was it. So hard in fact that it rocked her to her core. After all, the man who was supposed to love her no matter what had poisoned every aspect of her life and the woman who was supposed to protect her from everything stood by and watched. Yet the thought of leaving now without any family or real friends to count on scared the crap out of her. Kris couldn't count the number of times that she had asked her mother to leave with her. Her mother's response was always the same. She'd slough it off and tell Kris she was just too sensitive. To sensitive my ass! Kris thought to herself. Any sensitivity I ever had was beaten out of me years ago and she knows it. Kris told herself that the anger was good. It kept the fear and hurt away. I'd rather be angry than scared any day. I've had enough of that to last a lifetime!
It wasn't long before she heard the T.V. in the living room snap off and her father's overbearing voice ordering her mother to bed. She waited another hour and passed the time by writing a carefully constructed 'kiss my ass' letter to her parents. Once she was sure that they were asleep, Kris tossed her bag of belongings out her bedroom window and then lowered herself down from the ledge. Pushing her motorcycle down the block before starting it, Kris never looked back.
Kate was pleasantly surprised that her and Kris seemed to be able to work together without wanting to kill each other. The secret seemed to be that they didn't talk about anything other than the team. No mention was made of the past or their lives outside of what happened on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 3:00pm and 5:00pm when practice occurred. She still resented the fact that Mr. Hannock had imposed this on the both of them but with a little luck, they might just get through it after all.
Kate had to grudgingly admit that Kris seemed to be very good with the girls on the team. More than once she had caught the taller woman lounging on the gym floor talking to different groups about silly things. Things that Kate didn't think Kris would be very interested in. She is a counselor for God's sake. It is entirely possible she's just trying to establish some trust and a good report with the kids. Face it Kate, she's a lot different than what you remember. My God, it could even be that you were wrong all those years ago!
So deep in thought about the counselor was Kate that she failed to hear the light knocking on her door. When the knock grew a little more instant, Kate finally woke up from her daydream.
"Come on in!" Kate yelled out to whomever was behind the door. The door was slowly opened and Jenny, one of the girls from the volleyball team stuck her head in.
"Hi Ms. Crawford. I don't wanna bug you if you're busy." Jenny stated with a little trepidation.
"No not at all, I was just woolgathering." Kate said dismissing Jenny's comment with the wave of a hand. "What can I do for you? I would have thought you'd be long gone by now, it's almost five o'clock."
"I –uh," Jenny started then glanced down at her hands which were clenched together in her lap.
"Jenny, what's wrong?" Kate asked with concern in her voice.
"I need some advice and I didn't know who else to ask. I mean, you always seemed pretty cool about stuff and…" Jenny's voice once again trailed off.
"You can talk to me about anything Jenny. I hope you know that." Kate said trying to keep her voice soothing despite her growing concern. "Does this have anything to do with why you've been so quiet this season?"
"I –uh," Jenny started then stopped again.
"Just take a deep breath Jenny and tell me what's wrong. I promise you that nothing you say will make me angry or upset." Kate had visions of teenage pregnancy or drugs and drinking run through her head.
Jenny did as Kate told her and took a deep breath. "You remember how I told you at the end of last year that I was going to spend some time with my sister in the city?" Jenny questioned looking up through hooded eyes. When Kate simply nodded her head, Jenny continued. "While I was there, I kinda met someone and I'm a little confused about it."
Kate didn't really understand what the problem was. She was pretty sure she'd seen the young woman date more than one or two guys before so this shouldn't be a new experience. "Tell me about him Jenny. What has got you confused?"
Jenny swallowed deeply before continuing. "Well, we met at my sister's neighborhood barbecue the first week I was there. We hit it off really well and made plans to get together again. I didn't think much of it other than that it was cool to have someone my age to hang out with. The more time we spent together, the more time I wanted us to be together. It was really hard for me to understand 'cause I've never felt like that before. Finally before I left, we talked about how we both felt and then we…" Jenny stopped talking as if prolonging saying it out loud would make it less true.
"Jenny, did something happen that you didn't want to happen? Did this boy take advantage of you?" Kate could feel her anger rising and was trying to keep a lid on it.
"No! It was nothing like that. We just kissed a little. The thing is, I've never liked kissing before. None of the guys that I have dated have ever kissed me like that. It was the best thing I've ever felt in my life." Kate could tell by the look on Jenny's face that the young girl was indeed smitten. What she didn't understand was what the problem was.
"Well that's wonderful Jenny! I'm a little confused though. What exactly is it that you need advise on?" Kate asked hesitantly.
Jenny didn't answer immediately. She once again glanced down at her hands and then looked up at the ceiling. Finally she took a deep breath and said, "'Cause it wasn't a boy I met; it was a girl."
Kate remained absolutely still as her mind reeled to catch up with what was just said and what it meant. Speak you idiot. She's expecting some kind of reaction! Kate's inner voice screamed at her. "Well, now I see what's got you stressed." Kate managed to squeak out in a voice she didn't quite recognize.
Jenny finally looked at her, trying to judge the coach's reaction. "You think I'm sick don't you?" Jenny questioned fearfully.
"No! Not at all," Kate exclaimed. "I'm just a little surprised is all. Just give me a minute for my brain to catch up with my mouth and then we'll talk about this."
"I'm scared Ms. Crawford. I don't want to be gay. My parents and my friends will all disown me. What am I supposed to do?" Jenny sounded so much the little girl at that moment that Kate's heart broke for her.
"Sometimes, we don't get to choose things, they choose us. Is this something that feels right for you?" Kate asked as gently as possible. She knew she was out of her depth here. She could offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on but she was not sure how best to handle the coming to terms part of this conversation.
"I guess," Jenny responded dejectedly. "When I'm not scared out of my mind that is. I don't feel sick or anything, I just feel like some great secret that everyone was in on has finally been shared with me. Does that make any sense?"
"Feelings are never right or wrong Jenny, they're just there." Kate said softly. "I'm glad that you trusted me with this and I'll be here to help you in anyway that I can but I think that you need to talk to someone who can really help you make sense of all of your feelings."
"I don't know if I can tell anyone else. I just need you to tell me what to do." Jenny begged.
"It's not that easy kiddo. I wish it was, but it's not. Why don't you let me make you an appointment with Kris? You guys seem to get along really well. Would you feel comfortable talking to her?" Kate asked hoping the teen would go for it. It wasn't that she didn't want to deal with this, she just wasn't sure she knew how.
Jenny sat thoughtfully for a moment before she said, "will you come with me?"
"If you want me there, I'll be there." Whether Kris likes it or not! Kate added mentally.
Kris looked at the stacks of files that never seemed to quite make it into the filing cabinet in the corner. She wasn't surprised by what the files said, some of them just made her sad. She figured that a lot of what was said in her own file was probably mirrored in these files on her desk. I will make a difference to at least some of these kids! Kris thought fiercely. When I was here, there wasn't anyone to turn to, no one that could make a difference. I won't let that happen to them. With that thought in mind, Kris picked up the next file in the pile, pulled on her glasses and started making notes.
It was in that position that Kate found Kris nearly two hours later. With a light tap on the door, the shorter woman poked her head in the door and cleared her throat to try and get Kris's attention. Startled by the interruption, Kris glanced up sharply.
"Hi," Kate started quietly. "Sorry to bother you. I didn't think you'd still be here actually. I was just going to leave you a note. Since you're here though, if you have a minute I'd like to talk to you about something."
Kris blinked her eyes a few times to clear the cobwebs that absolute concentration had left her with. "Sure, come on in," she answered.
Kate moved further into the room and looked about as she found a chair. "This looks a little better than the last time I was here," she teased the tall woman.
"Yeah well, good impressions and all that crap." Kris responded lightly. "So what can I do for you?"
Kate shifted a little in the chair that she had taken across from Kris. "This may sound kind of stupid to you but I'm sure this is something you're more used to dealing with then me. I'm a little out of my depth here and I know that it's important that the right responses are given and, well-" Kate stopped talking as she realized she was rambling. The sudden realization that Kris's opinion of her mattered crept into her mind catching Kate off guard.
"Um Kate, I think I'm going to need a little more detail here if I'm going to help you out." Kris said trying to keep the amusement out of her voice.
"I know, I know. Sorry about that, I'm not sure what's come over me. Let's try this again." Kate said laughing at herself. "I had a talk with Jenny Cone yesterday. She was looking for some advise. I guess what she said shouldn't surprise me but it did a little bit. It seems that she met someone this summer while visiting some family in the city. Her feelings took her by surprise but I don't think that's bothering her nearly as much as the reaction of her friends and family."
"Teen romances can often be fraught with intense feelings and emotions. You've been a teacher long enough that I'm sure you know that for yourself. I don't think that's the end of the story is it?" Kris asked gently. She could see that the older teacher was nervous and this was obviously upsetting her. She was shocked that it bothered her that the other woman was uncomfortable when just a few short weeks ago she would have gone out of her way to make her feel that way herself.
"No, it's not the end of the story unfortunately. The catch is, the person she met was a girl. Now she's feeling scared and alone and completely weirded out. I'm not exactly sure on how to help her through those feelings and I asked her if she would be willing to come and talk with you." Kate looked to the dark-haired woman for her reaction.
Kris didn't respond immediately as her own past flashed before her eyes. By the time she brought herself out of it, Kate was looking like she wished she could crawl under the door and hide. "If you're uncomfortable dealing with this, then I'll handle it myself." Kate snapped harshly as she mistook the look on Kris's face for disgust. She was surprised to see the look of hurt that flashed across Kris's face and immediately regretted her tone.
Kris exhaled softly and tried to count to ten. No matter what was between her and the small blond sitting in front of her, the students would come first. "For the record, homosexuality doesn't now nor has it ever bothered me. On top of that, I am a professional and would only ever act in the best interest of a student. Now if we can put our own issues aside, did the student agree to come and see me?"
Kate looking properly chastised answered quietly, "She said she'd come and talk to you if I could come."
The immature part of Kris wanted to scream NO! but better judgment kept her quiet. "I'm willing to do almost anything it takes to make the student more comfortable. If she feels better having you here, I'm all for it. I will ask that you allow me to handle this the way I feel is best for the time being. I promise you that I will always have her best interest in mind."
"Of course. I felt so bad for her; she seemed so scared. I didn't want to tell her something that sent her running. God Kris, I couldn't even get my mouth to move. It was horrible." Kate seemed to have forgotten for the moment who she was talking to as she completely let her guard down. As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew that somewhere along the line, the anger she'd felt in the past had fallen by the wayside. From the look on Kris's face, she knew it too.
"This is never an easy situation for any teenager. Unfortunately, it's made worse in cases like this because of the 'small town' attitude that is prevalent. We'll talk to her and find out where she's at mentally before jumping the gun. There are several good outreach programs that work with gay teens. I know that a friend of mine is running one that is in Pritchard. That's probably the closest one and I trust the staff that are working there." Kris stopped, wanting to say something else but not wanting to sound condescending. Deciding she should at least mention what was on her mind she said very quietly, "You did the right thing you know. This is the kind of thing that I'm here to help with. I am glad that our past differences didn't get in the middle of you coming to me with this."
Kate wasn't sure how to respond to Kris. She knew that if she'd had time to think about it, their past might very well have come into play. She'd been so shocked at the time, she responded without necessarily thinking. Deciding that if they were going to try and work together to help out Jenny she should be honest, she told the younger woman exactly that. "I guess I probably wasn't thinking about that at the time. It's probably just as well since you are more qualified to handle this type of thing. I do want to help in any way that I can but I don't want to butt heads about it."
Kris smiled and leaned back in her chair. "The fact that you didn't think about our differences tells me that you care a great deal about your students. The fact that you think I'm qualified to do anything just simply amazes me. My how the times have changed."
Kate couldn't help but agree.
Kris knew that she didn't have a lot of money and the little bit she did have wasn't going to get her far. The only thing she could hope for was that she'd be able to find work quickly. Figuring her best chance for survival (and in many ways her least chance) was to head for the city. At least there she could blend in with the other hundreds of kids looking to disappear.
She drove for four hours down the highway before hunger and sleep deprivation caught up with her. Pulling up into the next diner she found, Kris eased herself from her bike and stretched her long limbs. Figuring the place didn't look like it would kill her, she headed into the diner and selected a corner booth. When the waitress approached her, Kris ordered a sandwich and a coffee and then grabbed a newspaper that had been left behind by a previous patron.
As Kris sat looking at the Help Wanted section of the paper, she didn't notice the man that approached her. When he sat himself down in front of her, Kris glanced up and said, "Whatever you are selling, I don't want any." With that she turned back to her newspaper.
"I think that you might want to listen to me. I see you're looking for a job. It won't be easy kid. Do you know how many kids are out there just like you? They all think they've got the world by the balls. Thought they had it so bad at home that they'd be better off on the streets," the old man stopped to scratch his beard thoughtfully. "I guess some of them are."
"Look mister, I don't know who you are and frankly, I don't care. I just want to read the newspaper and have my coffee. I don't need your advice or you conversation." Kris tried to use her most menacing voice.
"Well that's good 'cause I'm not here to offer you either. I'm thinking that you look like you're someone who might not be afraid of some hard work. I have an offer for you." He looked expectantly at the youngster.
"I don't even want to know what you want. I can just imagine. Let me tell you mister, it'll be a cold day in hell before I turn to that kind of thing." Kris glared hotly at the annoying stranger.
"Now girlee, don't get y'er knickers in a knot. I'm not looking for that from something that can land me in jail. And for the record, it's amazing what a body will do to keep from freezing and starving." The man was quickly losing his patience and his mind had to fight to keep him on track. "My name is Ted Francis and I own a small import business. I was going to put an ad in the newspaper tomorrow for some help. It's not going to be fun work but it's clean and honest. The pays not much but I've got a small utility apartment in the back that you can have as part of the deal."
Kris looked at the man suspiciously. This sounded to good to be true. "What kind of work do I have to do?" Kris couldn't help but ask.
"Mostly just moving stuff around. Inventory and putting orders together to be shipped out. Until recently I did it all with my son but I'm getting old and my son," here the man stopped momentarily. "Well, my son is no longer here. So how about it?"
Kris looked at the man again. He didn't look like an ax murderer or anything, not that she'd know what one looked like. The offer sounded genuine and she didn't know how long it would take her to find something else. She figured the least she could do was check it out. "What's the name of your company?" Kris finally asked.
"Primer Imports. I import cheap crap from Japan, Taiwan and China and then sell it to the dollar stores and flea markets. It's nothing glamorous but it's a living." The man sounded tired Kris realized for the first time. To tired to be up to anything malicious.
"Okay, I'll come and check it out tomorrow. Where should I meet you?" Kris figured it wouldn't hurt to take a look.
"Robson and Bloor, it's a big black building on the north corner. Just come on in, the doors are usually up. By the way kid, what's y'er name?" Ted sounded relieved that he was going to get some help without really looking. He didn't know why but he had a good feeling about this kid.
"Kris. My name is Kris," she responded without adding a last name.
"No last name eh? Okay, I can go with that for now. You come by tomorrow at about 1:30pm and I'll show you around. Goodnight Kris." Ted rose to leave and smiled for the first time. "I thank you for the conversation."
Kris shook her head. God I hope this guys not just some loon. This would be perfect!
Kris walked tiredly up the stairs to her mother's front door. She had thankfully noticed that her father's car wasn't in the driveway when she pulled up. Knowing that she'd at least get a little time alone with her mother made Kris feel much better. She'd been hard pressed to divide her time between the school and her mother since the school year had officially started.
The bright spot had been that her and Kate hadn't been engaging in their normal all out warfare. At least this gave Kris one less thing to stress about. As she walked into the old house, she noticed a stack of mail sitting in the mail slot. Pulling it out, she pushed her way through the heavy door and went to find her mother.
"Mom?" Kris yelled after looking in the den where her mother usually slept.
"In the kitchen!" came the response from the back of the house.
Kris was a little miffed at the fact that her mother was on her feet and apparently cooking again. Her mother noticed it immediately and started to defend her actions immediately.
"Now before you start, I was going out of my mind laying in that bed all day. I had to get up and do something. I can't just wait around for death to come and get me," she stated with her hand held up to Kris.
"You know that you should be resting mom. What would happen if you got dizzy and fell? You're here all alone!" Kris tried to keep the anger out of her voice but knew she failed when she saw the look on her mother's face. Taking a deep breath, she tried again, this time keeping her voice at a more reasonable level. "I'm just worried about you mom. Maybe I should hire someone to be here with you during the day."
"I'm fine. I don't want someone else running my house," her mother answered quickly. Then more quietly she added, "You know that your father would never go for it anyway."
"I don't give a damn what he will go for mom." Kris retorted angrily. Without thinking she added, "You know, you could just come and live with me."
"No I can't, but thanks for the offer." Kris's mom smiled at her gently. "How was your day?"
Kris knew a change of subject when she heard one but decided to play along. "It was okay. We had a really good practice. I think that the girls are ready for their first game next week. It'll be good to see them against another team. They've been working so hard."
"I've never understood the competitive bug. It's funny that you ended up with it so fiercely. I remember when you and the little girl from down the street, what was her name?" Kris's mom stopped and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Brianna? Yes, I think that was it. Anyway, I remember when you two decided to see who could climb the highest in that tree out in the vacant lot. When one of the neighbors came to get me, I nearly had a heart attack. You were sitting way up high. I thought for sure the branches would break. Scared the life out of me!"
Kris remembered the little girl and the tree. What she didn't tell her mom was that she was so scared; it took her nearly an hour to climb back down. Smiling she said, "I won." Then laughed when she saw the look on her mother's face. "It wasn't that bad!"
"Then why did it take you nearly an hour to climb down?" Her mother said with that 'mother's know everything' look on her face. At that, they both laughed.
"Tell me, did you keep your competitive bug?" Her mom asked innocently.
Oh goodie! We're going to play catch up on my life now. Kris thought to herself with a grimace.
"Yeah, I guess I did. I played basketball as a walk-on in college, which was fun. I enjoyed the challenge and the team was great." Kris responded knowing her mother needed these bits of silly information before she passed on.
"Can you tell me about that? How on earth did you manage to get into college? Not that I didn't think you were smart enough but your grades were atrocious that last year you were here." Kris could see the yearning in her mother's face, the need for knowledge.
"I wrote my G.E.D and was accepted as a mature student a year later than when I should have gone. It wasn't easy. I had classes all day and then worked in the evenings to support myself. The little company that I worked for provided a small apartment for me as part of my salary so I just had to worry about food and school costs but it was tight sometimes. The first year I almost quit three times." Kris got lost in the past for a few minutes and had to pull back to the present.
"Kris I wish –" her mother started and then faltered. What could she say really that could take away all of the pain and hardships that she herself had a hand in piling onto the young woman.
"I know mom. I wish too. The past is the past though and we can only go forward." Kris tried to comfort her mother, even through her own pain.
Both women sat there quietly, not knowing what else could be said.
Kate and Jenny sat on the small couch across from Kris who sat on her office chair. The first thing that Kris noticed about the young girl was the totally dejected yet completely defensive posture that she held. It was obvious that she was struggling to come to terms with her new feelings and Kris's heart went out to her.
Deciding that the best way to deal with the defensive attitude was by reassuring the girl, Kris started off with a calming voice. "Well Jenny, Ms. Crawford tells me that you are going through a kind of rough time right now. Before we get into that, I want to tell you a few things. I know that you're probably worried that we're going to go off and tell your parents or some of the other teacher's what's going on with you but I want to assure you that will not happen. Nothing that is said in this room will ever leave this room. We are here for you, any time of the day or night that you may need us so I'm giving you my card and it has my pager number on it. If you need to talk and I'm not here, you page me and I'll call you right back. The last thing I want to tell you is that we will never judge you for what you say. Do you understand?"
Jenny looked from Kate to Kris and then back again. Figuring that they both looked sincere, she simply nodded her head, not yet ready to speak.
"Okay good. Just so you know, I may take notes from time to time but nothing I write is a secret and you are more than welcome to see what I'm writing at any time. I'm just getting old and sometimes my brain forgets things." Kris joked lightly. "Now, Ms. Crawford told me a little about your summer but I'd really like to hear from you what took place."
Jenny looked uncertain for a moment and almost looked like she was ready to bolt. Kate noticed immediately and reached out to pat the girl on the knee. Taking a breath, Jenny started speaking. She was so quiet that both Kris and Kate had to strain to hear her. "I have an older sister who lives in the city. She moved there when she went to college a few years ago. I guess she like it 'cause she decided to stay there when she graduated. I don't get to see her very often, which really sucks 'cause I miss her. She got married two years ago and I have a nephew who is absolutely adorable." Jenny stopped speaking and looked to both of the adults with a smile on her face. "Anyway, my parents thought maybe I'd like to spend the last month of summer holiday's with her so I went in August. I was so excited to see her and my nephew Thad. I don't really like her husband but that's just 'cause he drinks beer and always smells like it. So the day after I got there, Stacy, that's my sister, told me they were having a block party. Do you know what that is?" Jenny asked and looked at Kris for confirmation. When Kris nodded her head she continued. "I've never been to a block party before. The closest thing we've ever had is when we go to the church picnic but that's like a town party 'cause usually everyone in town is there. This was totally different though."
When Jenny stopped talking and didn't seem to want to continue, Kris pushed her for more information. "What was the first thing you noticed that was different?"
Jenny smiled shyly and said, "Well, for one thing, there was lots of alcohol. And for another, there were lots of different people, like from all different races so the food was pretty different. I had curried chicken and sushi, which by the way is disgusting. Stacy even let me try a bit of wine. I was having the best time!"
Kate and Kris both smiled at the look on Jenny's face. It was quite obvious that it meant a lot to her to spend time with her sister but also obvious that the new experiences were more than a little welcome.
Jenny continued, "So the party was just in full swing when my sister spots someone off in the crowd. She told me she wanted to introduce me to some people and kind of dragged me over to a family of about five people. That was the first time I met her. The family lived across the road from my sister. She was their oldest daughter and had been away attending college. Her name was Cameron, although she prefers Cam. As my sister and her parents got into a conversation about toddler antics, we kind of started a conversation. I was super nervous but I didn't know why. I talk to people all of the time but it felt so different with her. She didn't seem to notice though and she asked me if I wanted to go get some pop." Jenny paused again, seemingly waiting for a sound of disapproval from one of the adults in the room. When none came forward, she continued on. "The rest of the day was kind of a blur. We just kept talking and talking about everything. She is so smart and funny that I think I could have listened to her forever." Jenny had a dreamy look on her face to which the Kris and Kate shared a smile.
"What happened at the end of the day?" Kris asked in order to prod Jenny out of her dream-like state.
"Well," Jenny began thoughtfully, "as the party was winding down, she asked me if I'd like to go to the park the next day. It was going to be the first day of the Cultural Festival and she said that it should be fun. I was so shocked that someone like her would be interested in hanging out with someone like me. My heart started beating so fast and my palms were sweating. After a couple of minutes, I realized that she was waiting for an answer so I agreed. We set a time to meet the next morning and then went our separate ways."
Jenny once again looked down at her hands. It was obvious to Kris that she needed a moment to gather her thoughts and perhaps her strength so she let her sit for a moment while making some notes.
In a very quite voice Jenny said, "It just seemed like that one day turned into the rest of the month. We were pretty much together every day after that. I'd never had a friend like that before. I mean, sure I have friends here but with her it was…different. I don't know if I can explain it." Jenny looked so hopeless that Kris felt she needed to reassure her.
"You don't have to explain it right now Jenny. We'll take this slowly and walk down this road with you. It's natural that your feelings in all relationships intensify, as you get older. Some of the people that you thought you couldn't live without a year ago you will barely remember when you get older and some of them will remain close friends for the rest of your life. I know that it was different with Cam and that can be confusing. Can I ask you something?" Kris paused until the girl nodded her head slightly. "Have you ever thought before about being gay?"
Jenny thought for a moment before she answered. "I always knew that I didn't feel all of the things I heard my friends talking about when it came to boys. I dated some last year and I liked them all well enough but I just couldn't get all gaga about them. I figured that maybe I hadn't met the right guy and that I was young enough that I had lots of time. From the first moment that I met Cam though, I started feeling all of those things. I couldn't wait to see her or talk to her. I'd find myself staring at her and thinking that she was just amazing. I was so scared but I couldn't stop seeing her. Event though I felt all of these things though, I just couldn't come to let myself think about it. Even now, I can't really say it out loud." Jenny started to cry quietly and Kate instinctively did the only thing she could think of; she wrapped her arms around her and let her cry.
Kris met Kate's eyes and both were shocked at the look of compassion and understanding in the others' eyes. As Jenny cries became less, Kris said gently, "I'm sorry you were so scared. It can be tough to deal with feelings that are new and confusing without someone to talk to."
"I wanted to talk to my sister about it but I just couldn't. I mean, what if she told my parents or something like that? They'd kill me if they found out. They're so religious they make the minister look like a heathen," Jenny stated emphatically.
Kris internally cringed at both the word 'heathen' and the reference to her father. Kate noticed immediately the look in Kris's eyes and patted the younger girl on the knee. "Why don't we stop for today and give you a chance to catch your breath Jenny. You've done a lot of talking today about things that you've kept bottled up and I think you probably need some time to yourself."
Jenny looked relieved that she wasn't going to have to reveal anymore of her self for the moment and nodded her head. As she stood up she hesitated momentarily, "You're sure that you don't think I'm sick?"
Without hesitation, both Kris and Kate said at the same time, "Not at all."
Believing the two women, Jenny gathered her stuff and headed for the door. She looked back when she heard the deep timbre of Kris's voice say, "Why don't we get together again on Wednesday night after practice?"
Jenny smiled and agreed before slipping out the heavy door.
Once she was gone Kris looked to Kate and found her to be looking sad. "What's wrong?" she asked softly.
"I'm worried about her. This is such a tough thing to have to deal with at such a young age." Kate replied.
"I know," Kris responded, "but with support of understanding adults, it should help some. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to deal with this. This is a small town in the 'Bible-Belt' and she has a very religious family. Fortunately, she's only got this year to go and then she'll be off to college where the atmosphere is a little more open. I think that as long as we can help her come to terms with her feelings, she'll be okay. She's a strong girl, probably stronger than she realizes. She proved that by first coming to talk to you and then by agreeing to talk to me."
"I hope you're right. My god though, what if her parents find out? I've met her mom and the only word for that woman is cold," she shivered dramatically to make her point. "I'm amazed that Jenny turned out as well as she did. She's one of the most caring girls I've met in a long time." Kate said fondly.
"Sometimes kids look at their parents and instinctively want to be the exact opposite of them." Kris's reply was so soft that it almost seemed to the blonde teacher she was talking to herself.
When their eyes met again, Kris could see the silent question in Kate's eyes but couldn't answer. Instead, she shook slightly and said, "Please don't go there."
Kate's eyes turned compassionate at the quiet plea. "If you ever need to talk…"
Kris quirked a half-smile and said, "Thanks."
Kris was very quiet that evening while sitting at her mother's bedside. It was obvious to the older Warren woman that something was troubling her daughter. The couple of times she had attempted to engage the younger woman in conversation had been met with short answers. Finally unable to ignore it any longer, the bed-ridden woman asked, "Kris, won't you please tell me what's got you so upset tonight? Have I done something to make you uncomfortable?"
Kris realized at her mother's words that she had indeed been poor company. "No mom, I'm sorry. I met with a student today and I guess that's what's occupying my mind. I didn't mean to ignore you."
"You haven't ignored me. It's just that I don't know a lot of things about you but the one thing I do know is when something is on your mind. Do you want to talk about it?" She asked hesitantly.
"I can't really get into details but lets just say that I've been a counselor for a long time but today I didn't just sympathize with this student, I could actually empathize with them. It's brought back a lot of old feelings that I've tried to forget." Kris trailed off already aware she'd come close to saying too much.
"Well, the only thing I can say then is that you will be much better for helping this student. You can identify with this student and help guide them. It may also help you to resolve some of those old feelings and put them in the past for good." Karen smiled softly at her daughter, still amazed at the similar features the young woman shared with her husband.
"Mom, you make it sound so easy," Kris mumbled under her breath.
"I never said it would be easy. You know by now Kris that nothing in life is easy. I'm sure that if this student has you to come to though, it'll be alright in the end." Karen's look portrayed so much confidence that Kris felt a little stab in her heart.
"Actually, there's someone helping out on this one," Kris told her mom absently. At Karen's look of surprise she continued, "The student originally went to Kate Crawford with this. Kate decided it was more my area and asked the student if they would be willing to talk to me. The student agreed on the understanding that Kate would come to all of the sessions."
Karen was absolutely amazed. She recalled the fights that Kris used to have with the young history teacher when she was in school. She was also under the impression that the two had not been getting along since Kris's sudden return. Before she could comment further Kris offered, "we've been getting along pretty well actually. We have a sort of silent agreement to not talk about anything outside of school related issues. So far it's working. I just hope that when we disagree about something school related, it doesn't all go to hell in a hand basket."
"Kris, watch your mouth," her mother chided her, "and perhaps the two of you should talk about what ever your problem with each other is before you come to a disagreement on a school-related issue. That way you won't choke each other to death when it happens."
Kris looked at her mother and thought why weren't you this full of advice when I was a kid? Keeping that thought to herself she said instead, "I know you're right mom but I don't want to upset the balance that we have right now. At least the way things are now; I don't have to worry about my head being bitten off every time I go to work. I'm hoping that we're beyond all of the bickering without having to go back and rehash why the bickering began in the first place."
"Well my dear daughter, your are the psychologist. You think about it and come to your own conclusion!" Karen glared at Kris playfully and the small smile curling her lips took the sting out of the sharp words.
"Thanks mom. I try not to over analyze myself. It's to tiring!" Kris laughed.
Kris and Kate continued their sessions with Jenny a couple of times a week over the next month. Before any of them knew it, Halloween was upon them and all of the kids were planning their elaborate Halloween dance. Jenny had been doing so well in their sessions that Kris was a little surprised to see the dejected look on the youngster's face as she slumped into her office one day a week and a half before Halloween.
"Hey," Kris said in way of greeting.
"Hey," Jenny replied.
"Want to tell me what's on your mind?" Kris asked.
"Next week is the Halloween dance." Jenny replied as though that should explain everything.
Kris looked at Kate through confused eyes. Seeing that Kate was as confused as she was, she prodded, "And?"
"And if I go to the dance, I have to bring a date. If I don't go to the dance, everyone will rag on me. If I bring a date, it'll feel like lying. I don't know what to do!" Jenny exclaimed.
"Ah, I see." Kris replied understanding the dilemma completely.
"What am I going to do? I hate feeling like this all of the time! I'm always scared I'm going to say or do the wrong thing and everyone is going to be there pointing and laughing at me and calling me a queer." Kate was alarmed at the outburst from the teenager. She hadn't seen her this upset since the very first couple of sessions. It broke her heart and when she looked at Kris for her reaction, saw complete understanding.
"I know that it is difficult for you Jenny," Kris began, "you are a senior in high school and you want to fit in and feel like just one of the crowd. You feel like you'll be letting down Cam and yourself if you go to the dance with a boy just to make your friends and family happy and you feel isolated." Kris stopped briefly while the teen looked at her and nodded her head. "I've got a friend in Pritchard who runs a gay teen youth group kind of thing. They're getting together this weekend to go bowling and I thought maybe you'd like to go." When she saw the fear in the young girl's eyes she held up her hand to stall the protest she knew was coming. "I think this would be good for you. You'll get to meet other kids your age who are dealing with all of the same things that you are. All of these kids are from small towns around here and they've all had to go through what you are going through now. I'll come with you just to make sure that you're comfortable if you want. That way, if you don't like it, we can leave anytime."
Kris waited for Jenny to make up her mind. She could see the longing of fitting into a group battling with the fear of being found out drift through her mind. Finally Jenny looked at Kate. "What do you think? Do you think I should go?" she asked the older teacher.
"I think it would be worth the gamble kiddo. You never know, you might meet your new best friend!" Kate responded with an enthusiasm she didn't really feel.
"Okay," agreed Jenny, "but only if we can leave when I want to."
"You got it!" smiled Kris approvingly.
"Now what am I going to do about the dance?" Jenny asked.
"Why don't we wait until after this weekend? You never know, maybe one of the guys there wouldn't mind taking you. Then you'd both know up front what the score was and neither of your feelings would get hurt." Kris responded.
"Okay, see you Friday." With that, Jenny left the two women alone.
As the door clicked shut, there was a heavy silence hanging in the air. Neither woman said anything right away. Kris was aware that Kate was unhappy with something although she wasn't sure what it was.
Finally Kate broke the heavy silence. "Do you really think that this is the best idea?" she asked.
"Do I think what is the best idea?" Kris returned questioningly.
"Taking her to a gay youth group. I don't know if you're aware of this but news travels fast around here. It's not like it would be that hard for people to find out, even if it is in another town." Kate explained in what Kris found to be a condescending tone of voice.
"I remember well how quickly news travels around here thanks. I think this would be good for her. It will give her a chance to see that she's not the only person on earth that feels like this." Kris replied smartly.
"I know that it's important for her to see that, I'm not stupid! I'm just worried that someone will find out and then God only knows what will happen. I want her to have the chance to finish high school in relative peace!" Kate exclaimed loudly.
Kris's eyes were flashing so Kate expected a nasty retort. She was quite surprised when she heard the very quiet by firm reply, "and I just want to make sure she has a chance to finish it at all."
The silence moved in again between the two women. Kris reliving her own past and Kate trying desperately to understand what had just been said. Not able to decipher it she asked, "What do you mean?"
"Do you know what the suicide rate is among gay teens? It's obscenely high, more so in small towns like this where the isolation is more strongly felt. I think it's very important that we get her involved with other kids that she can be herself around." Kris's voice was adamant and passionate and if truth be told, scared Kate just a little.
"You don't think -?" Kate began but was unable to finish the horrible thought.
"I don't want to take a chance. I'm not going to play games with her life. I think that this is a good idea." Kris stated finally.
"OK, I'm going to trust your judgment on this." Kate hesitated and was about to continue when Kris cut in.
"Why is that so hard for you?" Kris asked, immediately regretting the need to bring it up.
Kate looked long at Kris before she answered. "When you were a student here, you and I didn't see eye to eye on, well anything. I guess I sometimes find it difficult to put the past in the past and see you as the person you are now. Part of my brain knows that you are good at your job. I've seen that with my own two eyes. The other part though still sees this defiant, rebellious teenager."
Kris leaned her elbows on her knees and sighed. "I know that I was a pain in the ass when I was a kid. I had a lot of things going on that I didn't know how to handle. I have grown up though and I'm not that kid anymore. That kid is still here in me; its what makes me want to do this job in the first place. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, I think I do. I'll try harder to leave the past where it lay." Kate quirked a half-smile at the beautiful woman in front of her. "Can I just say though that you still look exactly the same?"
"Well, that's okay. You haven't changed much either. If you look really close though, you can see my gray hair coming in, but don't you dare tell anyone that!" Kris smiled full out now, relieved that the tension had passed for the moment. "I've got to run now. I told my mom we'd eat popcorn and watch some stupid chic-flick."
"K, have a good night," replied Kate softly, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Kate watched as Kris ran around the court with the young girls. Wow, she's in seriously good shape! Kate knew that Kris was a good-looking woman, she only had to walk into the teacher's lounge after the tall woman had been in there to grab coffee to hear all the appreciative male comments. Strange that she's not married yet. I wonder what that's all about? Surely she's had offers. I know that I've heard her asked out on numerous occasions since she's been here. I wonder what kind of man she would find attractive. It would have to be someone pretty strong in order to allow her her independence. She looked again and thought, and someone who didn't get jealous easily 'cause I don't think you could ever stop men from staring at her! Then she realized that she was staring and thought or woman either apparently!
From where Kris was standing instructing the girls on how to approach for a good spike, she could see Kate staring at her and it was making her nervous. I wonder what the hell that look is for? Kris shrugged it off as she again demonstrated to the girls how to swing their arms up while jumping to help with momentum. Again when she came down she noticed the smaller woman staring. Leaving the girls to practice on their own for a moment, she sidled up to the blonde.
"Something wrong with my technique?" she asked quietly as she came to stand beside Kate.
"What?" Kate asked confused at the interruption of her thoughts.
"You were staring at me. Did you not like something I did?" Kris asked again amused at the other woman's flustered look.
"No, not at all. It was fine. Don't worry about me. I'm just uh-" Kate stopped as she looked up at the taller woman's grin.
"Babbling." Kris finished for her. "I didn't know I had that affect on you!" she teased before sauntering off to help the girls with their blocking jumps.
Damn! If I didn't know better, I'd think she was flirting with me! Wow, I bet she's a real heartbreaker when she wants to be!
The weekend approached quickly and Kate once again thought about trying to talk Kris out of taking Jenny to the youth group. She knew what the counselor was saying made sense but she was still worried about the possible outcome should someone discover just what kind of youth group it was the Jenny was attending. By the time Friday night rolled around, she had pretty much convinced herself that the idea should be reconsidered. The only trouble was Kate wasn't able to catch up with Kris all day and that left her with only one option, to visit the tall woman at her home. Well, she didn't kill me last time I went there. We do get along far better these days then we did then so maybe she won't mind. Kate snorted to herself, yeah right! She'll be just fine until I tell her why I'm there. I don't want her to think that I'm questioning her judgment but I need her to tell me that this is the right thing to do.
Kate was still trying to convince herself that she was doing the right thing as she approached the other woman's front door later that evening. It wasn't until she was at the top of the stairs and just about to knock that she heard the voices raised in anger coming from inside. Knowing that she should leave but unable to make her feet obey her brain, she resigned herself to the unattractive art of eavesdropping. Leaning as close as she could to the door without actually trying to look through the peephole, she found that she could hear quite well.
"Kristina, I am your father and you will listen to me! I don't want your mother exposed to the kind of information that you've been passing on to her! I will not have your disgusting lifestyle seep back into my household. You are a piece of garbage that I thought I was rid of years ago! I thought I taught you to respect your elders!" Kate heard the deep voice of the preacher row.
"You are not my father! You are nothing more than a sperm donor. If you think that I'm going to stand here and be afraid of an old man you are sadly mistaken. I'm not a little girl any more. I know what a bastard you really are, but I'm not afraid of you. My 'disgusting lifestyle' is just a convenient excuse for your behavior and we both know it. The only thing you are worried about is your reputation! Just imagine the good people of this town finding out that their beloved minister has a lesbian for a daughter!" Kris spat the words out at the old man in front of her. All of the hurt and anger that had been bottled up inside for the past 12 years came pouring out of her. So involved in her diatribe was Kris that she didn't see the hand that struck out and caught her squarely across the side of her face. Although her father was much older now, he was still in fairly good shape and the blow knocked Kris flying.
Kate heard the slap from outside and the ensuing crash. Not being able to take anymore, she pushed her way inside the front door without bothering to knock.
"What the hell is going on here?" she demanded as she took in the scene of Kris lying on the floor, her lip and nose bloodied from the blow.
The large man looked at the small blonde and sneered. "Is this your new plaything? I wonder if the school board is aware of its tendencies to hire queers? I'm guessing that they'd be very interested in finding out that tidbit of information."
Kate shuttered at the look of venom from the old man but stated calmly, "I wonder what the church would think of its tendency to hire thugs that beat on woman?"
Watching the standoff from the floor, Kris suddenly became aware that her father looked as though he may lash out at the small woman. Getting to her feet unsteadily, she pulled the smaller woman behind her.
She saw the look of disgust grow on her fathers face and said as calmly as she could. "Get out now before I decide to call the cops. You don't want them involved and quite frankly, neither do I at this point. I just want to get through this year. Stay out of my way and when this is over, you'll never have to hear from me again."
Her father seemed to think about this for a moment and then said, "I will not allow you to corrupt this town Kristina. These are good people here and they don't need the likes of you. Ms. Crawford, I'm disappointed in you. I was always under the impression that you felt the same way about my daughter as I do." With that final insult, he turned and left.
It was all Kris could do to remain upright until her father had left. Once gone, she sagged quickly and Kate had to grab her around the waist to keep her from falling. Together, they eased their way over to the couch and flopped down. Neither woman said a word at first. Kris leaned her head against the back of the couch and closed her eyes. She hated to feel vulnerable and that's exactly how she felt at this moment. Someone had seen her at a less than strong state and that someone was not just anyone. It was a woman who confused her on the best of days.
Silently, somehow sensing that Kris needed a moment to gather her emotions in, Kate got up and went into the kitchen. Looking through the cupboards she found some coffee and a couple of mugs. Putting the coffee on, she opened a drawer and found a tea towel and then got some ice out of the freezer. Crushing the ice up, she wrapped it in a zip-lock bag before wrapping the bag in the tea towel. Hoping that Kris had had enough space, she took all of her findings out to the tall woman.
She hesitated only a moment, taking in Kris's features. Her eyes were still closed and her head still leaned back against the top of the couch. The left side of her face was already swelling though and although Kate didn't want to disturb her; she knew that they needed to get some ice on that eye. As gently as she could, Kate kneeled on the couch next to the brunette and tucked the long dark locks behind an ear. Kris stiffened at the touch at first but then relaxed as she felt the make shift ice pack being applied just as gently.
Kris thought it was odd that she was allowing the small blonde into her personal space. She didn't normally do that and it was a strange sensation. She felt the gentle touch at the side of her face, felt Kate's warm breath on the side of her face when she lifted away the ice pack. Turning her head slightly, Kris opened her eyes and for the first time in her life felt safe. Brilliant blue met hypnotic green both swirling with an emotion that neither could put a name to. Neither woman knew how long they stayed that way, staring into each other's eyes. Finally Kris reached up and took the small hand in her own removing the ice pack and tossing it on the table. Feeling suddenly shy, she tried to pull away from Kate but the blonde would have none of it. She held tightly to Kris's hand and whispered, "tell me."
To be continued – Part 5
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