Disclaimers:  Whilst the leading ladies come across as very familiar, they are in fact products of my over active imagination, as is the whole story. No infringement is intended.

Sex/Violence:  There is love between two women (or there will be eventually) in this, so if that’s not your cup of tea, I wouldn’t bother with this. The sex won’t be graphic, but the violence might be when it pops up.

While this isn’t my first fanfic, it is the first one to be posted. It’s also the longest one I’ve ever written, and that’s just the first part. So, there is lots more to come, and please don’t get too impatient. Take a long view when reading it, cause that’s how it’s written.

Feedback:  Please, don’t hold back. Good, bad or indifferent, I would like to hear your views. After all, it’s all about the readers. fishbulbgeek@yahoo.co.uk

Chapter 2

June, 2005

   Taylor sang along with the radio as she worked. The sun was bright and warm, and she was in shorts and a sports bra, her hair shoved under a cap to keep it out of her eyes. After checking her measurements for the third time, she picked up the saw and started to cut. It had started out as just something to do one afternoon, but once she had made the stool that she used every morning now at breakfast, she had found a desire to carry on.

   Now she was making herself a unit to put her TV on, with enough space to hold the DVD player, cable box and speakers that went with it. If that went well, a coffee table would be next. The work was physical, and the concentration required making sure she didn’t cut her thumb off meant she could spend significant parts of the day not brooding. Although, she reflected, she found herself thinking more about the here and now than about the past.

   Completing the cut, she took the length of wood over to her bench, and started to smooth the jagged edges. There was a simple pleasure in making something with your own hands, she decided. The time passed quickly, and it was only when it got cloudy and the air turned cooler that she stopped. Looking at her watch, she was surprised to notice that was late in the afternoon. She glanced at the clouds, and started packing everything away. The tools were placed in the box, which was placed in the kitchen on the floor by the door. A tarp was thrown over everything else, since she couldn’t be bothered moving it inside the house to protect it from the rain that was sure to come.

   Stomach growling, she limped around the kitchen. Peering in the fridge, she groaned on seeing bare shelves. Resigning herself to a trip to the store, she had a quick shower and got dressed. The hated knee brace was carefully wrapped around her leg, and she pulled on baggy jeans, the only kind she wore now, to hide the fact that she was wearing it, A sweatshirt completed the outfit. Glancing outside, she again noted the dark clouds, and picked up a jacket, just in case.

   She entered the small store, and picked up a basket. Pinned up on the wall above the baskets was a small poster advertising a pool competition at The Commercial. She read further, intrigued. Friday night at eight. Huh. Taylor had driven past the small bar a few times on her trips into town, it wasn’t far from her home. She wandered around the store, still thinking about the competition. It had been a long time since she’d played, but she couldn’t let the idea go. Well, maybe I’ll go, check this thing out. Mind made up, she paid for her purchases and drove home, smiling a little.


   Friday quickly rolled around for the brunette, who was looking forward to going out and hopefully making a few new friends. She hadn’t really ventured out since moving to Dunston, and was actually a little nervous. Standing in front of the mirror in the bedroom, she checked her outfit one last time. Her favourite pair of jeans, so faded they looked white in places, a black tank and a black cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up over that. Tan hiking boots completed the look. Her long black hair was pulled into a simple ponytail. Deciding that the outfit was casual enough for a bar, she grabbed her wallet and set off.

   The parking lot was already full, and she ended up more or less abandoning the truck in a dark corner next to some dumpsters. Stepping out, she shivered a little, and hurried into the bar. As it was early, just before quarter to eight, the bar was fairly quiet. The whole front half of the bar was empty. All the activity seemed to be clustered in back. From the lights in back, she surmised that the pool tables where there. Taylor strolled to the bar, resting one foot on the bar the ran along the bottom. The only person behind the bar was at the far end, talking with some other customers. Taylor lit up while she waited to be noticed.

   “What can I get you?” Taylor smiled at the polite young man.

   “Carlsberg please.” She had spied the import bottles in the bottom of a chiller cabinet, and wanted the strong make over the usually weak and bland American beers. He nodded, placing her bottle on a coaster in front of her.

   “Haven’t seen you in here before?” He commented as she passed over a ten. Taylor shrugged as he got the change.

   “I’m new in town. Thought I’d check out the pool competition.” He grinned.

   “You any good?” Taylor just smiled cockily.

   “Maybe.” she replied teasingly. He laughed, and stuck out his hand.

   “I’m Brad. I work here almost every night. Taylor shook his hand, keeping her grip light so as not to crush his surprisingly small hand. Brad was petite. “So where you from? Don’t think I’ve heard that accent before.” He enquired as Taylor took a sip from the chilled bottle.

   “I just moved here from Germany. Before then I lived in Wales. That’s where the weird accent comes from.” And if I live here long enough you can add a southern drawl into the mix as well. Taylor had a habit of picking up accents and languages from those around her. Brad scrunched his nose up as she spoke, and she knew he was listening for both influences in her voice.

   “Well it’s certainly unique.” he commented. He started to speak again, but was interrupted by a shout from the other end of the bar.

   “Hey Brad, you growing the damn grapes or what?” Taylor glanced over to see who was making the fuss. A short, but solidly built woman was waving an empty glass in the air. Her hair was short and the most unnatural shade of blue. It somehow managed to look okay.

   “Oops. Sorry hun, duty calls.” He sauntered over, voice rumbling although she couldn’t hear the words. He wagged his finger at the woman with blue hair, and Taylor got the impression she was being chastised. She moved her attention to the rest of the room, and decided to wander over to the pool area. The crowd had thinned a little. She saw a table in the front, a large whiteboard next to it. Two guys were standing with their backs to her, writing on the board. Or they would be if they weren’t fighting over the pen.

   “Dude, you always get to write the board, and I always have to do the chart.”

   “That’s because people can read my writing.” The shorter of the two grabbed for the pen, only to have it held above his head.

   “Come on, you said I could do it this month.” He whined slightly. Taylor stopped at the table, and listened to them fight.

   “I lied. Deal with it.” The taller of the two smiled, and turned to face the board fully. The smaller one narrowed green eyes at him.

   “Fine. See if you get any tonight.” He muttered, before turning to face Taylor. A wide smile replaced the sullen look. “What can I do for you dear?” Taylor raised an eyebrow,.

   “I was here to play pool, but I don’t want to interrupt a domestic. I can come back in five if you guys want more time.” She made a show of looking at her watch.

   “If you think that’s a domestic, wait a till closing time and we fight over who gets to drive.” Taylor chuckled. The short man grinned, then turned business like. “Two dollars to play, and we need a name for the board.” Taylor pulled out her change, and handed over two dollar bills. “Thanks. And your name?”

   “Taylor.” He scribbled her name down on a book on the table, putting the money in a box on one side. Taylor watched him write, and concluded that it probably was better that he didn’t do the board if that was his handwriting. The upside-down view was incomprehensible, and she didn’t think that the right-side view was any better. He finished writing, and looked up.

   “Okay. You play when your name is called. Winner goes through to the next round. The final is best of three. Ten percent goes to charity. Winner takes the rest. Since this is your first time, you’re unseeded. You could be playing anyone I’m afraid. Good luck, and have fun.” He concluded his little speech. Taylor frowned.

   “How do you know it’s my first time?”

   “That’s what the charts are for. Go, sit, relax.” He shooed her away, and Taylor retreated to a nearby table. Glancing around, she realised that she was older than most of the patrons, young twenty-something’s. At 38, she was probably the oldest woman in the room. Watching the games in progress on the three tables made her feel a little better. At least she could bring experience to the game. She smiled, and took out the newspaper she had brought with her, and started to catch up on the world’s headlines.

   “Heads!” A loud cry brought her out of the local entertainment page, and she was just in time to see a nine ball fly through the air to land nearby and roll to her feet. She picked up the errant ball, and looked for its owner. The owner of the blue hair was rushing over, blushing.

   “Isn’t part of the game keeping the balls on the table?” she asked, grinning. Blue’s blush deepened.

   “Yeah. Kinda got carried away. Sorry about that.” Taylor shook her head, and handed over the ball.

   “Don’t worry about it. Good luck in the rest of the game.” Blue played with the ball, tossing it up and catching it.

   “Thanks. I’m sure I’ll need it. Are you playing in the competition?” Taylor glanced at the board at the side of the room. Her name was up for the next game, against someone called ‘The Mighty Poobah’?

   “Who the hell is ‘The Mighty Poobah’?” She burst out, browns drawn together in an unbelieving frown. Blue winced.

   “That would be my friend Laura. She comes up with a different one every time we play. Last time she was ‘The Fifth Horseman‘.”

   “Ronnie? Why?” Taylor was truly intrigued. Blue just shrugged, looking a little uncomfortable now, and glancing over her shoulder at her game. Taylor followed and her look, and realised she was holding the other woman up. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to keep you waiting.” Blue grinned at her in reply.

   “Believe me, it was a pleasure talking to you.” And left, leaving Taylor to watch her walk away. At least it was a nice view. The hair might be shocking, but the jeans clung in all the right places. She took a long swallow of the Carlsberg. I think I just got flirted with. She smiled, despite the fact she was almost certainly ten years the woman’s senior. A cigarette later she was being called up for her game. ‘The Mighty Poobah’ was young and tall, with long dark hair that was tied up in the same manner as her own. Brown eyes winked playfully. She extended her hand, and Taylor shook it automatically. The woman had a strong grip.

   “The Mighty Poobah I presume?” She laughed, and shook her head.

   “Please, call me Laura.”

   “And I’m Taylor. What prompted the name?”

   “New nickname at the office. I just got promoted. Heads or tails?” She almost got whiplash at the subject change, but since she’d been watching the games for a half hour, she realised that Laura was talking about the flip for the break.

   “Tails, please.” Laura flipped the quarter onto the table. The both leaned over to check the result.

   “And tails it is.”  Taylor took the cue offered to her, gratified that it was a long one, and took position at the head of the table. Laura stepped back to give her room. “So, you play often?”

   “It’s been a while. I’m sure I’m a little rusty.” Taylor allowed, before sending the white into the pack. They both watched in anticipation as the pack broke apart, and two stripes rolled in to different pockets. Taylor checked the white, and saw that she was set up for her next shot. “Or maybe not.” Taylor sank the next ball with ease, but the white rolled into a horrible position. Her only option was to take a safety shot, leaving the white against the cushion, partially blocked by her own ball. Laura stepped up to the table. Reviewing her options.

   “Rusty. Right. I wish I was that rusty.” Laura took aim, and potted one of her own. Another two followed, before she misjudged a shot, and neatly potted the white.

   “Nice shot Poobah.” Taylor kidded. Laura arched an eyebrow in reply. Taylor turned her attention to the table. If she was lucky, she could clear up here. “Lets see what I can do with this.” she muttered. Soon, only the black remained for her. “Black, bottom right.” She pointed at the pocket with her cue. It was at the opposite side from the black, and if she got it in, it would be showing off. Of course, it went in.

   “Good game.” Laura held her hand out, and Taylor shook it graciously. “It’s been a while since we had anyone who can actually play.” She commented as they both moved out of the way. The table was being set up for another game. They were starting the quarter finals already. They sat at a table with Blue.

   “What’s the point of a pool competition if no-one can play?” Taylor asked, puzzled.

   “It’s an easy way to raise money for charity.” Blue said, a serious look on her face. “We started it a few years back when Hank, that’s the owners son, died of aids.”

   “Oh.” She didn’t know what to say to that, so she sipped her beer instead.

   “Usually Chris wins, but she’s not turning up ‘till later.” Laura grinned at Taylor suddenly. “She’ll be gutted that she didn’t get a chance to play you.”

   “So I take it Chris is a pool shark?” Blue laughed, and Laura joined in.

   “Something like that. Lets just say… never bet her when pool is involved.”

   “Hah. You remember that time when that convention was in town and she…” Taylor tuned them out as they started talking about past history, lighting another cigarette and watching the games instead. As soon as one game finished she would be up against her next opponent. Absently she started to rub her knee, feeling the brace under her jeans. She had a painkiller in her pocket, but was reluctant to take it now she’d had a beer. In fact-

   “I’m going to the bar. You guys want a drink?” She interrupted the conversation. They shook their heads.

   “No thanks.”

   “I’m good.” And went back to their conversation. Taylor caught the words ‘skunk’ and ‘stuffed’ as she walked away. There was no chatting at the bar this time, as Brad was still the only one on bar, and it had gotten a little busier. Wandering back with her fresh cold beer, she saw that she was up for another game, so she headed straight to the table.

   “Hi.” She shook hands with her opponent, who didn’t say anything. The dour young woman was dressed in black and had badly dyed black hair. Her roots were showing. Taylor decided not mention it to her. Further inspection of the woman, twenty if she was a day, revealed that both ears had been pierced multiple times. “Sure you’re in the right place?” Taylor muttered under her breath, before turning her attention to the game. Her opponent took the break, but didn’t get anything down. Eager to finish the game if only to get away from the depressing company who kept frowning at her, she cleared the table in her first visit.

   “Good game.” She called out to the retreating back. She shook her head. “Was it something I said?” She asked the short guy who had taken her money earlier. He was writing down in his chart. Probably the results of the match she thought.

   “Nah. Roberta’s always like that. She’s got issues.” Taylor turned to join Blue and Laura  when he stopped her. “Hang on. You got through to the semi’s. You’ll be playing Richard.” She put her beer down and started setting up the table for the next game. She was bored already. Whatever it was she expected coming to the bar, it hadn’t happened yet.

   “So I moved to Texas State to do the final year of my studies before I sit the bar exam. I had to move here since this is where I want to practice. I’ve got an internship with a local firm in Austin over the winter break.”

   “That sounds nice.” Chris tried valiantly to act interested, but all she could think about was the fact that she was missing the pool tourney just to listen to Kevin drone on about his studies. If I didn’t think all lawyers were evil before, I sure do now. The smile was fixed in place, and her face betrayed nothing as he carried on talking. Why she had agreed to a coffee after the movie was beyond her. At least the movie had been interesting. Good meaningless violence, a thin plot and a heroine who looked good in leather. The smile deepened briefly as her thoughts turned more salacious. With an effort, she surreptitiously checked the time. Half nine. If she left now, she might get there in time for the final, depending how many people had played this month. Decision made, she drained the last of her coffee.

   “Look, Kevin. I’ve had a really good time tonight, but it’s been a long week. I need to go home and rest.” He looked surprised, and then disappointed.

   “Oh. Okay. Give me a second to get the bill and I’ll drive you home.” She managed to repress the shudder at the thought of travelling in the car he had borrowed from his cousins for the night. It had been devoid of rubbish, but the lingering smell of fast food and stale beer had put her off. She was glad that she only had the bike for just that reason.

   “No, it’s out of your way. I’ll just grab a cab.”

   “But-” She stood, pulling her jacket on.

   “Honestly, It’s okay. Here’s some money for the coffee.” She dropped a note onto the table. “See you later David.” She walked away as quickly as she could without looking like she rushing. She got outside and took a deep lungful of air, letting it out slowly. The nearest taxi rank was a block away, so she started strolling along, lighting her first cigarette of the evening as she went. She was just finishing her cigarette when she got to the taxi rank. Luckily there was one waiting there.

   “Commie please.” The driver nodded, and started off. She got her cell phone out and called Laura, who answered quickly. “Make mine a beer. I’ll be there in five.” She said, speaking up to be heard over the noise of the bar.

   “Really? Cool. See you in five.”  She hung up, and watched out the window until they pulled up outside the bar. She paid the driver and headed inside. The Commie was busy for a Friday night. She saw Caz first, the blue hair served as a beacon amongst more normal hair colours, and Laura next to her. She threaded her way through the crowd and sat heavily in the chair. A cold, frosty pint was sat in front of her, and she took a long, healthy swallow before speaking.

   “Hi guys. How you doin? Where’s Sharon?”

   “She had to pull a double shift at the hospital.” Laura said, giving her a quick one-armed hug. “And since you’re here, I can share my news.”  Chris and Caz both gave her their full attention, even though Chris already knew what was coming. She had a gift to give to her later, to commemerate the moment. Laura paused dramatically. “I got promoted. You are looking at the new assistant accountant at Modina Distribution Enterprises.” Chris smiled as Blue squealed, both of them giving her a big hug.

   “Congratulations Laura, really.” Blue looked at the pool board, and back at Laura.

   “Well that explains the new nickname.” Chris peered over her shoulder, saw what it was, and sniggered.

   “Subtle as always. Nice to see some things never change.” Laura shrugged.

   “Can’t be serious 24/7. ‘Sides, everyone at the office is calling me that.” Chris just smiled. Caz started firing questions at Laura about what the promotion entailed. Chris had already heard it, so she concentrated on fishing out her cigarettes and lighting up. It was as she put the packet and lighter on the table next to her beer that she saw the butts in the ashtray. That’s funny. Caz and Laura don’t smoke, and Sharon’s not here tonight, she mused. She glanced over at the pool tables to see who was winning, and her breathe caught in her throat. A breathtaking woman with hair so dark it shone, bright blue eyes and cheekbones you could cut glass with was playing.

   As she watched, the stranger sidled round the table and leant over to take a shot. Chris couldn’t hep but ogle the ass presented to her. Suddenly, she remembered where she was, and turned back to the table. She was blushing slightly, and couldn’t seem to stop. Taking another long swallow of her beer to calm herself, she prayed that her friends couldn’t see how flustered she was.

   “Are you blushing?” Laura asked curiously.

   “No, of course not. What would I be blushing for?” She replied gruffly, not meeting her eyes. Laura and Caz both looked around to see what the source of the sudden shyness was. Laura noticed Taylor playing first, and nudged Caz in the ribs. She tilted her head over in that direction, a question in her eyes. Caz looked at Taylor, who was oblivious, and then at Chris, who was studying her glass as if it contained world secrets, and back at Taylor. Laura and Caz shared a grin.

   “So there’s a new contender to the pool champion title.” Caz started casually. Chris jerked her head up, shocked. That was her title, had been for as long as she could remember. There’s no-one better than me in this place! Laura continued, pretending not to notice Chris’s reaction.

   “MmmHmm. She kicked my ass. Seven-balled Roberta too. And it looks like she’s beaten Sam to take the final.” Chris glanced round behind her, and saw the stranger shaking hands with Sam, smiling bashfully. Chris pinned Laura and Caz with a look.

   “Who is she?”

   “Her names Taylor. Just moved here I think. She didn’t really say much when we were playing.”

   “Brad says she just moved here from Germany.” Caz offered. Laura nodded.

   “That explains the odd accent then.” Chris felt a presence behind her and glanced back. And was forced to crane her head way back. God she’s tall.

   “Can I get anyone a drink?” Taylor’s voice was low and melodic, and exceedingly polite. Up close and personal Chris could see a hint of grey at the temples, and deep lines in the tanned face. It gave her a dignified air. The blue eyes twinkled, and it took a long moment before she remembered her voice.

   “Uh, hi?” She ignored the blush that deepened as her voice broke. The intense gaze was focused on her.

   “Chris, I take it?” Chris nodded dumbly. Taylor smiled, and stuck her hand out. “Nice to meet you. I’m Taylor.” Chris shook the hand automatically. The grip was strong, and she had thick calluses that said she worked with her hands as much as she did. She belatedly remembered to release her hand. “Would you like a drink?” She nodded again, as the power of speech had suddenly left her. And a drink sounded awfully good as her mouth was quite dry at the moment. Laura came to her rescue.

   “Would you like a hand carrying the drinks back?”

   “Sure.” They headed off towards the bar. Chris’s traitorous eyes followed the perfect ass until her view was blocked by people. Caz nudged her arm, and she glared at her.

   “What?” she growled. Caz just smiled.

   “Found your tongue now I see.”

   “Fuck off.”

   They reached the bar quickly, catching Brad’s eye. He waved at them, still serving other people. Taylor leaned against the bar, grateful for it’s support. She’d reached her two drink limit. If she wanted to continue she would have to leave the truck in the parking lot overnight, or switch to soft drinks. Neither thought appealed to her. Especially since her knee was aching quite badly now.

   “Pitcher of margarita please.” Laura ordered.

   “How many glasses?” Brad asked. Laura turned to her, waiting.

   “Oh, not for me. I have to be going actually.” Laura looked surprised. Brad merely continued getting the tray of drinks ready.

   “I thought you were continuing. You did offer to get the next round after all.” Taylor shrugged.

   “I know. But I’m driving so I can’t have any more to drink.”

   “We do coffee.” Brad piped up. Taylor thought about going home, putting her feet up.

   “Okay. Black, no sugar.” He turned away to get her the coffee. “So that’s Chris, the pool shark.” Laura smiled.

   “She’s normally more chatty. I think finding out she has a competitor on the pool table threw her. She’s been the undisputed champion for years.” Taylor studied the little blonde, who was chatting more easily now. Chris was wearing tight fitting black pants and a green cardigan that almost matched her eyes. The top couldn’t hide the strong shoulders. She wondered what Chris did for a living.

   “That’s understandable, I suppose.” Taylor pushed any other possible reason for the blondes reaction to her out of her mind, and reached for her coffee. As they threaded back to the table she effortlessly put back the walls she had let drop a little that evening. She pulled another chair up to the table, positioning herself so she faced away from Chris. Laura poured everyone a glass, and they raised it in a silent toast. Taylor felt out of place amongst the friends. She was obviously intruding on a special night for them.

   “I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before Taylor?” Caz broke the silence first, attempting to draw the suddenly silent addition to their group out of her shell.

   “This is my first time.” She replied simply.

   “So, are you new in town?” She pressed on.

   “Moved here last month.”

   “I noticed you have a bit of an accent. Don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.” Chris put in, smiling shyly as Taylor looked over. Taylor smiled automatically in response.

   “It’s a mix of Welsh and German. I just moved here from Munich. Before then I was in Cardiff.”

   “So what brought you here? Dunston's pretty small compared to Munich.” Taylor shrugged, starting to feel uncomfortable. Please don’t ask about my job. she pleaded to whatever gods were listening.

   “I fancied a change. And I’ve never been to America to before.”

   “So how do you like America so far?” Taylor shrugged.

   “It’s certainly different to anywhere else I’ve visited.” She replied. The table fell silent again. Laura stood up suddenly.

   “C’mon Caz, it’s time for that dance you owe me.” she said, as music started to play. They left the two women alone at the table.

   “So have you been to a lot of places?” Taylor leaned forward to hear her properly over the music.


   “Have you been to a lot of places?” Chris repeated, leaning in as well. Taylor was treated to a hint of cleavage as she did so, keeping back the blush through sheer willpower. She made herself keep eye contact. No doubt Chris had no idea she was so alluring, or the effect she was having on the older woman.

   “I used to travel a lot around Europe. A week here, a week there every now and again. What about you?” Chris shook her head.

   “Nah. I’ve lived here all my life. Furthest I’ve ever travelled is to Austin for a weekend.” She paused. “Bet that sounds really boring to someone who’s travelled the world.”

   “Not at all.” Taylor said quickly. “Moving around isn’t as glamorous as you might think. Mostly I’ve seen a lot of airports and hotels. They all look the same after a while. Trust me. You’ve seen one Travelodge, you’ve seen ’em all.”  She finished wryly. She was rewarded when Chris smiled.

   “Well, since I know this area pretty damn well, if you ever need someone to show you around, I’m your gal.”

   “I might have to take you up on that. I haven’t really spent any time looking around yet.” They shared another awkward smile.

   Oh my god, I’m flirting with the hottest woman in the place. And I think she‘s flirting back. Brad, eat your heart out! Chris thought to herself viciously. Her insides were doing a great big happy dance. The worst week of her life was suddenly looking up. She took another sip of her drink, trying to think of something else to say to prolong the conversation.

   “So what do you do?” Taylor asked. Those intense blue eyes gazed at her again.

   “I work in my fathers garage.”

   “Mechanic?” Chris nodded. Taylor sighed. “I can change a tyre and that’s about it. Always wished I knew a bit more about engines. Especially the time I was on holiday in France and I broke down. Two miles from the nearest town. Pissing down with rain. Turns out the fan belt had gone. Or was it the timing belt? Either way I couldn’t have fixed it on the side of the road, but at the time that didn’t matter. I still wished I knew more about cars.” Chris laughed at the tale of woe.

   “I’ve always known about engines. Grew up spending weekends and holidays working with my Dad. One of my earliest memories is passing him tools while he worked. My mother always hated it. ‘One grease monkey is enough in this family’.” She imitated her mother telling off her dad, wagging her finger imperiously. She smiled fondly at the memory.

   “That obviously never stopped you going into the business.” Chris shrugged.

   “Couldn’t be helped. Only thing I’ve ever been any good at.”

   “Bet that makes for some family dinners.” Taylor observed.

   “Oh, you got that right. Shoulda seen the steam coming outta her ears when I told her I was leaving school and going to work for Daddy. She hasn’t gotten over it yet.”

   “Still. It sounds like you’re close to them.”

   “Love ‘em both.” Chris replied instantly. Taylor looked down, her face closed. “Don’t like ‘em half the time, but I’ll always love the pair of them.” Taylor didn’t say anything. “Are you close to your parents?” She asked gently. Taylor shook her head.

   “Not anymore.” Chris sensed that she had stumbled into forbidden territory, and backed off, not wanting to scare her away.

   “So what’s this they’ve been telling me about you taking away my title?” She inquired teasingly.

   “Title? Oh the pool thing. Well. Everyone I played tonight sucked, so it was pretty easy to impress.” Taylor jumped when Laura and Caz sat down at the table.

   “Oh so I suck do I? Thanks.” Taylor looked stricken for a moment, until Laura laughed loudly. “Well I guess that’s fair. I do suck at pool.” Caz topped up everyone’s glasses, and stood up holding the now empty pitcher.

   “Shall I get another?”

   “Oh yes. I still have plenty of celebrating left in me.” Laura encouraged. Chris nodded as well. Taylor put aside her now empty coffee cup, but said no to another cup.

   “So how’s work been since you moved up?” Laura sat up straighter, excited.

   “It’s been mad. I thought I was working hard before, but my inbox has tripled since I got promoted. Although Mark has been a sweetheart in helping me out.” Chris couldn’t help but notice her enthusiasm, and felt good for her.

   “Tell me you’re not loving every single minute of it.” Chris demanded. Laura bit her lip, and said nothing. Chris just stared at her, eyebrow raised, giving her the best ‘look’ she could.

   “Alright, I love it. God, I can’t hide anything from you.” Chris sat back, folding her arms smugly. Taylor looked on in amusement at the banter. Caz came back at that moment with another pitcher, placing it neatly in the middle of the table. She sat down next to Chris.

   “So Chris, how was your date tonight?” Oh god, don’t talk about that. Anything but that. Chris panicked. For some reason she didn’t want Taylor to know anything about what she had to do to keep her mother quiet. She’s not gonna understand.

   “It wasn‘t a date Caz.” She muttered, glaring at Caz, who carried on oblivious.

   “Even Brad the law student couldn’t have been that lame.” Chris resisted the urge to punch her lifelong friend, and even swallowed the groan. Taylor’s face was unreadable.

   “He’s just a friend of the family that wanted to see some of the town while he was visiting. You know how it is.” Chris tried to joke the statement away, downplaying the event.

   “I bet that’s not what he thought it was. Really, what did he do that was so lame?“ Laura shook her head.

   “Nothing. And it wasn’t a date. He just doesn’t know anyone in town and I offered to show him around.“ Crap. I didn’t mean to say that. she realised as Taylor’s face fell slightly. She recalled how she had offered the same thing not five minutes before, and wondered what Taylor thought of the offer now. No-one said anything for a long moment. “So, Taylor, do you fancy a game? Let’s see how good you really are.” Taylor just shook her head.

   “No thanks. I should be going anyway. I have stuff to do tomorrow.” Taylor stood up slowly. “It was nice meeting you all.” Before Chris could say anything else, she turned, and walked away. For the first time Chris noticed a slight limp. As soon as she was gone she turned on Caz.

   “Thanks dumbass.” She snarled, as Laura whacked her shoulder fiercely.

   “What? What did I do?” She protested, rubbing her shoulder and looking confused. Chris leaned back in her chair and groaned.

   “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” It really had been the week from hell.

Continued in Part 3