Seeing You Again for the First Time

By Colleen

 

Feedback can be sent to coleen30@webtv.net

 

I have also created a group for discussions of this, past and future stories. Maybe some sneak previews as well.

Join us at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/colleens_corner

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 16

 

Erin munched on the last of her popcorn as they exited the five-screen theater. "So what did you think?" she asked her partner. The ladies had decided that a lazy Saturday would be a good day to go and see a movie. They drove to the nearest mid-sized city which was only forty-five minutes away from their house and once there they had chosen to see the new Planet of the Apes.

"I liked it. Not quite sure about the ending though."

"Yeah. But the make-up was great."

"Yeah, that female chimp was kinda cute," Jamie said, as they reached the car.

Erin shut the door behind her and reached for her seatbelt. "Please don’t tell me you are developing a thing for hairy women."

Jamie laughed as the engine turned over under her touch. "Don’t worry, I won’t be asking you to throw away your razor anytime soon."

They had chosen the early matinee so they could have dinner in town afterward. With Erin reading off the directions, Jamie navigated the strange streets looking for the Mexican restaurant they wanted to try. There were quite a few people on the streets for a Saturday afternoon and besides guiding Jamie to their destination, Erin indulged in a developing practice of people watching.

There were kids on their bicycles and roller blades dodging the other pedestrians. Erin rolled her eyes at the group of teens moping down the street wearing their over-sized pants at half-mast. Even far removed from the big cities, the teenagers still managed to know the current trends. Three pre-teen girls stood outside of the local music store, giggling and swooning over the huge ‘N Sync poster plastered in the window.

Erin turned her attention to the large park they were passing by. One couple in particular caught her eye. The tall brown-haired man carried a similar-haired baby in a backpack as he walked along with the person who she assumed was the baby’s mother, but that didn’t necessarily make her his wife, Erin thought. And endless array of characters paraded before the author’s eyes and she studied them intently. As the car stopped at a red light, she noticed another gentleman in clean, but rumpled clothing. He swayed as he walked and judging from the package he tried unsuccessfully to hide inside his jacket, had obviously gotten a good start on his weekend party of one. She wondered what his story was. How many years had he succumbed? Why did he drink? Or maybe this was just a one-time event, triggered by some tragedy in his life. The possibilities were endless. And she would never know for sure as the man faded from sight. He could be a character in my book. Maybe. Erin leaned her head against the window. What does it matter? I can’t seem to write more than a few paragraphs at a time any more. Even that is leaving me.

"I guess this is it," said Jamie, pulling into the nearly empty parking lot and choosing a space near the front entrance. Once seated in the requested non-smoking area, Erin began perusing the tri-fold menu.

"Oh boy," stated the blonde. "I’ll never be able to choose. Everything looks so delicious."

Jamie nodded her agreement. "Well, we’ll just order several things and share."

Erin smiled. "I like your thinking."

Several minutes later the waitress returned with their drinks and a big basket of red and blue tortilla chips along with several small bowls of dipping sauces. They both avoided the one labeled with a red-hot flame and instead sampled the mild lime salsa and the green guacamole.

Erin held up a crimson chip doused liberally with the chunky red dip. "Bridgett makes an incredible raspberry salsa. I’ll have to get her recipe."

"Ohh, that sounds good."

They both continued to munch on the appetizers as Jamie pondered something she had been wanting to ask Erin, something she thought might give Erin a little of her spark back. She cleared her throat of the spicy food with a drink of her beer. "You know, I’ve been thinking. Chad told me about a rancher over the ridge that has a couple of nice, older horses he wants to sell. I figured that we could offer them a nice place to retire and just to keep them active, I thought we might start up your riding program for physically challenged children."

Erin lowered her eyes to the table and slowly smiled before looking back up. "That would be great."

"Good. Maybe we can kick it all off with a big party."

Erin brightened considerably, rubbing her hands together in anticipation and straightening in her chair. "Bridgett’s salsa would be great…and hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. Maybe chicken for the adults, not that adults don’t like hamburgers…or hot dogs, but we should have a variety."

Their meals arrived and they both dove in. Erin joyously bantered around ideas all through the meal and Jamie just watched with glee at the happiness written all over the animated features.

That’s it, thought Jamie, she needed something to do, something active. She’ll love helping those kids.

Erin snitched a few more bites from Jamie’s plate and in turn passed off some of her honey glazed chicken. The noise in the adobe style building started to escalate as the evening crowd began to pick up. Jamie grabbed the desert card preparing to order something sweet before they left while Erin was still working on the remainder of two of their dishes.

Just as an experiment, Erin dipped a touch of the hot salsa onto her bite of food. Her eyes widened just a little as it singed her throat. "This reminds me of the time last summer when we went to that Mexican themed party down the beach from us. Do you remember how you were dared to take a huge gulp of the fire sauce they had. Between that and the bikini top you wore, you were burned inside and out. Remember how you claimed that you stay out there all day and never get burned…but you got burned all right. It was days before you could lay down without yelping."

Jamie sat back suddenly, took a healthy swallow of her Corona and stared at what food was left on her plate as Erin went on. "Would you please not do that," she asked gruffly when there was a break in Erin’s story.

"Do what?"

Jamie drew her attention to the twirling fan above their table. "You know I don’t remember, so stop asking me if I do."

"I don’t do that," insisted Erin.

Jamie’s eyes hardened as she caught Erin’s. "Yes you do."

"Jamie what are you talking about?"

The dark-haired woman’s jaw clenched as she watched a family of six pass by their table. One little girl waved at her and she halfheartedly returned the gesture to be polite. But inside, months of simmering frustration were reaching the boiling point. "We’ll talk about it when we get home, Erin."

"Guess that means we’re leaving," said Erin a she reached for the wallet in her purse. "because I want to know what you mean."

It was a long, silent ride home. They were both emitting enough negative vibes to know that a moving vehicle was no place for the conversation.

Artemis made a hasty retreat away as her two humans stomped in the front door, Erin slamming it behind her. The car keys landed on the dining room table with a loud clunk and Jamie stormed into the kitchen to start the coffee. She had a feeling that it was going to be a long night and she was going to need it.

"Okay," said Erin. "We’re in the privacy of our own home. Now explain exactly what it is you meant back at the restaurant."

Jamie hesitated. She didn’t really want to get into this conversation, but now it was unavoidable. Erin wouldn’t have let it go, she was like a dog on a bone when she was being challenged. "You’ve been doing it for weeks Erin," she finally blurted out when the smaller woman demanded an answer.

"Doing what?" Erin shouted.

"What was the last thing you said at the restaurant, before I got upset?"

The blonde head shook at the incomprehensible turn the conversation was taking. "I…I think I was talking about the time we went to that beach party. What is so wrong with that?"

"It wasn’t wrong to talk about it Erin, but you said do you remember. It’s always, don’t you remember, I can’t believe you don’t remember, just wait until you remember. No matter how much you have been wishing, willing or craving it, it hasn’t happened. And it might not. I have accepted that possibility, but you haven’t. I always catch you with this sad little expression on your face." The tall woman gave an exaggerated frown to prove her point. "Either that or you’re staring at me with this expectant look or you are trying to re-create a past experience." Jamie threw both disgusted hands in the air. "I don’t remember, plain and simple. Why can’t you just let it go?" After the frustrated rant, Jamie finally took a composing breath. She finally turned to look at her angered partner.

"You’re mad because I want you to remember us. It’s more like you don’t want to remember."

Jamie pointed an accusing finger. "You have no idea what I want!"

"Why don’t you tell me then?" shouted Erin. "What is your problem with the things I’ve done?"

Jamie didn’t answer; she paced in tiny circles already regretting starting the argument. Finally she spoke. "Just think about what I said Erin. Because we can’t go on like this."

Erin just turned away, trying to understand just what she had done to warrant Jamie’s reaction. She stood there with downcast eyes. Her mouth hung open, unable to answer the accusations until all of Jamie’s words began filtering through her brain and slowly it dawned on her. She realized that it was true. She had done it all. "Jamie…I only wanted you…to be able to feel all the things that we shared. I love you."

Jamie’s watery eyes slipped shut. "I know you love me Erin…I know." She took a shaky breath. "But I don’t think you like me without those memories. That makes me feel inadequate. I feel like a disappointment to you."

The verbal one-two punch snapped Erin’s thoughts and left a burning in her gut as if two fists had landed squarely on their target. She felt physically ill and her head pounded with the truth. She couldn’t say anything to Jamie. At that moment all of her advanced vocabulary faded to a mere shadow in her brain.

Jamie dropped into a nearby chair with a thump. Her legs no longer had the strength to hold up her length of bone. And the rest of her was debating just how to conquer the hurdle that she had erected. She still wasn’t able to look up at the sadness that she felt emanating from across the room. She did hear Erin’s feet start to move toward the staircase. "Where are you going?" she asked softly.

Erin, of course, remembered their last big disagreement, before Jamie got on that plane. She had felt helpless then and guilty now. An unproductive emotion, but almost unavoidable when a flawed human being loves another human being so much. She stuttered an answer. "I…I can’t. I…I need to be alone…for a while." She whispered a final, "I’m sorry."

Jamie sat in the same spot for the next twenty minutes, thinking about everything and nothing. For an instant she clearly heard herself yelling at Erin. But there were none of the words that she had just spoken. This was from another time and another place. She reached out with her soul and tried to grasp the shadows, but the memory never solidified. It vaporized back into the mists of her addled brain. She shook off the feeling of frustration and concentrated on the present. She leaned forward and felt a pain in her back, the tension drawing her muscles into vice grip. Maybe I was too hard on her. I should have found a better way to discuss this. I made her cry. Damn! I never wanted to do that. Listlessly she walked to the kitchen and reached for a bottle of water from the fridge. She leaned her backside against the counter and blew out a strong gust of air. Now she’s got me feeling guilty. But I shouldn’t. I was right in letting her know how I feel. Another cool swig of water slid down her throat. I just should have chosen a better way and a better time to do it. The dark head shook. Maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough to remember. I don’t know. Maybe I’m afraid to remember. I do want to remember. But it’s not that I need to anymore. I know who I am and I have everything I want. A painful feeling clenched her heart, terrifying her. But no matter what happens Erin, you are the single most important thing in my life and I won’t lose you. I can’t let that happen. Jamie looked at her watch again. It had been thirty minutes. That’s long enough. We need to talk.

Her anger had dissipated but with loving determination, Jamie climbed the stairs and approached their bedroom. She knocked once just to give her lover some warning. "Erin." The blonde wasn’t in the room. "Sweetheart, we need to talk about this now," she called as she moved toward the bathroom. Still no Erin.

Jamie then headed for her partner’s new hide-away. She had found the elusive woman in the small upstairs alcove no less than three times in the last few weeks. She passed by the hall window, giving it just a cursory glance. But Jamie stopped mid-stride when the image had registered in her mind and she backed up to the clear glass pane. Erin was standing in the back yard, half way between the house and the barn, staring at the ominous clouds gathering overhead. "What is she doing?" the tall woman mumbled to herself.

Jamie quickly took the back stairs and marched out through the small wooden gate. She slowed her approach when Erin gave no indication of hearing her. "What are you doing?" Jamie asked, trying not to sound angry, which she wasn’t. "It’s going to rain any minute."

"Am I still living in my fantasy world?" Erin asked heartbreakingly. "I mean, am I in a bed in some hospital and all this is going on in my head? You’re right. I did everything you said, but I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I should never have hurt you this way. Everything is supposed to be perfect. I got you back and that’s all that should matter. Why am I doing this? Why?" She buried her shameful face in her shaking hands.

"No, it’s not all that should matter Erin. You have to take care of yourself Sweetheart."

The blonde suddenly looked up with a terrified look on her face. "Or maybe I never got out of that lake. Maybe I did die and this is my heaven…or my hell."

Jamie softly grabbed her lover by the arms and turned her. "Erin this is no fantasy. You are alive. Look at me," she said. "Do you believe in my love for you? Do you believe me when I say this is real?"

Erin peered deeply into the pale blue eyes, seeing the painful truth. "Yes. But that means that I really did hurt you. And that is unacceptable."

"Erin, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. It’s just as much my fault. I should have told you sooner how I felt and I certainly shouldn’t have yelled at you. Sweetheart, no one is really at fault here. Think about everything that has happened to both of us this year." She saw the realization slowly wash over the sad face. "The stress of it all is just too much for us to handle alone. We both need help to come to terms with everything." She cautiously asked her next question. "Will you go with me to see a therapist?"

Erin nodded rapidly and threw her arms around the tall woman’s neck.

"We will work this out Erin. We’ll be okay Honey. We’ll be okay."

"I’m sorry Jamie. I was never disappointed in you, never." She squeezed tighter. "I love you. Please don’t leave me. Don’t ever leave me again."

Jamie cupped the blonde head and murmured in her ear. "I’m not Erin. I’m not leaving you and I won’t, not ever. I promise." She sealed her promise with a small kiss. "Now let’s go inside before we get wet."

They only took two steps when an enormous crackling came from above. Erin and Jamie were knocked off their feet and flew through the air landing with a sickening thud against the hard ground.

The air grew eerily quiet.

A patch of blackened grass smoldered about three yards from where they had been standing. Rain began to trickle down from the gray clouds overhead and within seconds the drops fell more heavily.

The first sensation Jamie became aware of was a wet back. She felt the cotton material sticking to her skin as she tested those muscles. The next thing she felt was something soft under her. She turned her head and saw wisps of blonde hair. Jamie was lying at an angle across Erin’s body. She pulled away quickly, calling her lover’s name, but the unconscious woman didn’t even twitch. The steady rain continued to drench them as Jamie frantically felt for a pulse. In her hysteria, she couldn’t tell if there was a beat or not. She did know that her lover wasn’t breathing. "No!" she screamed above the thunder. Jamie immediately began blowing life saving air into the still lungs, pulling away every few seconds to check again. "Don’t you do this Erin! Don’t you leave me!" she pleaded. "Don’t leave me!" More air was forced between the soft lips. "You made me promise, now it’s your turn!" With the blink of an eye Jamie had another flash, a visual memory this time. She was looking down on an unconscious Erin and there was blood beneath the blonde bangs. But again, Jamie couldn’t put it all together and she was pulled back to the current situation. Another breath was given and Jamie pulled back when she detected movement.

Erin sucked in a lung full of air…and rain. She turned her head sputtering and coughing as she was pulled to the dark haired woman’s chest.

Jamie beamed with joy. "That’s it Baby, that’s it. You’re okay now."

"What…happened?" the confused blonde asked between wheezes.

Jamie gently returned Erin to the ground and leaned over her, trying to keep the pelting rain from hitting her face. The dark head looked around. She spied the black spot in the grass and quickly put it together. "I think we were hit by lighting…sort of." She returned her concerned gaze back to her partner. "I landed on top of you," she explained. "Are you hurt anywhere?"

Erin took just a few seconds to inventory her body. "No, I don’t think so. I just got the wind knocked out of me."

"By me," Jamie said guiltily.

Erin reached up and palmed the worried face. "It was an accident. Besides, I tend to like it when you’re all wet and on top of me."

Jamie couldn’t help but smile and chuckle slightly. A tinge of embarrassment slid her eyes closed momentarily, but she quickly looked back down and caught the wicked grin. "Erin this isn’t…it’s not funny," she said, still smiling. She turned and kissed the palm that had rested against her cheek. "If you’re sure you’re not hurt, lets get inside." Jamie helped the smaller woman to her feet as a huge boom of thunder sounded overhead, even causing her to flinch. Jamie threw an arm over the blonde’s shoulder and pulled her in tight, protecting her. They took a few more steps and the thunder sounded again. "Are you okay?" she asked. "Isn’t the sound bothering you? You’re not going to have a panic attack are you?"

Erin stopped suddenly causing Jamie’s foot to slide on the wet grass as she was halted too. "What do you mean?" the blonde asked shakily, turning to Jamie. I never told her about this, her mind hummed. But she kept her excitement in check.

Jamie gave her an incredulous look. "The thunder, isn’t it bothering you like it did…?" Jamie went mute. Her eyes darted around, but her focus was inward.

Erin remained quiet, waiting for it to register.

The blue eyes finally landed on the green ones. "Like it did that Sunday afternoon," she explained, every word spreading her smile a little wider. The smaller woman was a mirror of her joy. "When I brought you out here for the first time." With her last word, Jamie found her arms full of an ecstatic blonde. She lifted Erin off the ground and spun around as their lips melded.

They finally separated and each threw their head back and let the cool rain wash over them. When the droplets began to slow, Jamie twisted her head furiously, sending splatters of water onto Erin’s already drenched face. "You never did answer my question," said Jamie. "Isn’t the sound bothering you?"

Erin let a slow grin cover her face. "Not any more. I found my safe haven, someone to chase away all of those demons." She leaned in and kissed Jamie like there was no tomorrow. But there would be many, many tomorrows for the happy couple. A lot of healing was still to come, but the events of this day led to the turning point on their life’s path. The detour that had started on a dark day over nine months before was finally coming to an end.

 

* * * *

 

Erin stepped from the bathroom brushing her hair. She finally felt dry, after all that time in the rain. The shower had been warm at least, but she still finished as quickly as possible. As she walked across the room, Erin felt an odd chill. She went to the closet and pulled out one of Jamie’s heavy button down shirts. She slipped it on, wincing slightly at her sore body. After pulling on a pair of comfortable sweats, Erin trotted down the stairs in a much better mood. A deep sniff of burning hickory led her to the living room.

Jamie sat on the cushioned ottoman in front of the small fireplace. Her gaze was lost in the flickering flames as she lifted the blue mug to her lips and sipped the dark coffee.

Erin took in the slumped shoulders and when she got close enough, the heavy scowl as well. She touched the shoulder hidden beneath the draped lavender towel.

"I’m sorry," whispered Jamie heavily.

Erin pulled over a chair. "What for?"

Jamie couldn’t look her in the eye. "I was so selfish. I got on that plane and put you through six months of hell." The dark head dropped and shook morosely.

Erin slid from the chair to her knees in front of the upset woman. She lifted the chin so that their eyes met. "Sweetheart, we both went through six months of hell. But it was an accident…no one’s fault."

"But…"

"No. No guilt, no blame. Leave it in the past. That’s why we’re going to get help, right?"

Jamie flickered a smile as she stared into the pleading emerald eyes. She finally nodded her agreement. "Speaking of the past. I think I remember most of that too. I’m sure there are still some gaps, but I remember enough, especially about…my past."

Erin gently hugged her and placed a kiss on the damp hair. "I know Honey. I never wanted you to know about that. I only wanted you to remember your family and us."

Jamie then smiled fondly. "My family," she said simply. But so few words spoke volumes and it warmed Erin’s heart.

The tall woman stood and led her lover over to the much more comfortable sofa. Erin snuggled in closer. "I do remember just about every glorious moment with you," said Jamie. "And you were right. You could explain the actions and events, but what I felt was only in here." She tapped the side of her head. "From the total enrapture I felt when I first laid eyes on you to the nervous stomach I had when I showed up to lunch the next day. You never knew this, but I hardly ate a thing. All I could do was stare at your beautiful face, but I felt guilty doing that because you didn’t know I was."

"I knew," Erin confessed softly.

"You did?"

Erin nodded. "I sensed it and liked it. Tell me more."

"You totally disrupted the calm my life had settled into, but only in the very best way. After I left you that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I waited every night for you to call. I couldn’t sit still and I couldn’t concentrate. I needed to be with you, even though my brain fought so hard against it."

"That’s kind of how I felt in Ireland, after you kissed me."

Jamie smiled then continued. "I remember the safety of your love wrapping itself around my heart that night at the beach house when I told you about my past. And I remember crying after you made love to me for the first time, because I had never felt so special in my entire life." Jamie took a deep breath. Reliving all those emotions was hard. "And I remember your birthday celebration and Thanksgiving, spending time with Caitlin and Conner." She paused and looked down into the face that held a dreamy expression. "And Christmas when you fulfilled my greatest childhood wish. But most of all, I remember falling in love with you a little more each day. And I love you most of all right this moment, but not as much I’ll love you tomorrow."

They were much too tired to indulge in anything more strenuous than a few lazy, but loving kisses. They just sat there watching the fire for several more minutes. "How do you feel," Jamie asked, "physically, I mean."

Erin considered a moment. "Not bad, but I’ve got this strange tingling all over." She flashed Jamie a teasing grin. "And it’s not from you."

The grin was returned. "I feel it too." Jamie glanced over at the grandfather clock that was just minutes away from seven chimes. "I think we should go over to the clinic and see a doctor, just to be sure. I don’t think either one of us wants to take a chance."

Erin sighed. "You’re right, but that would mean that I have to move and I’m much too comfortable."

"I know Honey, but this is important." Jamie scooted out from under Erin’s clutch and stood stiffly. "It won’t take long. Let’s go."

The blonde winced when she reached up to take the offered hand.

"What’s wrong?" Jamie asked.

"My shoulder’s just a little sore." She stood and rotated the joint in question.

"Let me see." Jamie quickly undid the row of silver buttons and slipped the shirt off of Erin’s left shoulder. She stepped around to take a look. "Erin! Why didn’t you say something? There is a bruise the size of my fist back here."

"Well, I’m kinda sore all over and it didn’t really hurt until just now. I must have landed on a rock."

Jamie gingerly kissed the injured area. "Now I know we are going to see a doctor."

 

* * * *

The rain had since ended leaving a fresh, clean scent to greet the twilight. Not much was said during the drive to the small clinic that was quite far away. Jamie knew she had been right in suggesting that they see a doctor because they both were beginning to feel a little shaky.

The black-topped parking lot was empty except for two cars parked at the far end. Jamie opened the heavy glass door and stepped aside to let Erin enter first. She kept her hand against the blonde’s lower back as they approached the tall desk and waited.

A middle-aged woman, carrying a purse under one arm and an umbrella in her hand, came around the corner from the back hall. She jumped in surprise. "Oh! I didn’t hear the door open."

"Yeah, sorry," said Jamie tiredly. "We were struck by lightning and we thought it was a good idea to come in and see the doctor."

The nurse’s deep blue eyes widened. "Oh my! Come on back and I’ll get Doctor Maxon." She opened a door labeled exam room A and turned to Jamie. "You can wait in here Miss…"

"Sheridan. Jamie Sheridan and this is Erin Casey."

"Miss Casey you’ll be right next door," the older woman said cheerfully.

But Jamie had her own ideas. She took Erin’s hand, entwining their fingers and led her into the first room. "We’ll stay together," she informed the nurse.

The woman, whose nametag read ‘Carol’, looked down at their joined hands and suddenly became flustered. "I…oh…well…I guess it’s all right." She left quickly, shutting the door quietly.

There was only one chair in the small, sterile, white room. Jamie strategically planted herself there so Erin would have to sit on the examination table and would be taken care of first. The author gave her lover a weak smile just to let Jamie know that the gesture was recognized. The tall woman reached over and patted her thigh.

Just a minute later, a man of about forty-five stepped into the room. He reached up to adjust his glasses while introducing himself. "I’m Doctor Maxon." He conveniently skipped the handshakes and small talk. He laid two green file folders on the counter next to the sink in which he proceeded to wash his hands. "So tell me exactly what happened," he said, wrapping two fingers around Erin’s wrist.

By the time she finished the story, the doctor was releasing the tension on the blood pressure cuff fastened tightly to Erin’s upper arm. He wrote down the statistics on the chart in the first folder. "And this happened when?" he asked.

Erin deferred to her partner for the answer. "It was a little before six."

Maxon placed the cold stethoscope inside Erin’s shirt, over her heart. When that was through, he felt around her skull for any bumps or abnormalities. "Any headaches or dizziness?"

"No."

"Any neck pain or numbness in your arms and legs?"

Again she answered him negatively, but did inform him of the tingling sensation, shaky feeling and the chills she had experienced earlier.

"That can happen because of the trauma and the electrical shock. Everything seems normal, but I would like to do an EKG. Unbutton your shirt, but you can keep it on. Lie back on the table."

His ministrations were gentle. But the bedside manner was that of a wet sponge. Jamie didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that it was because they were gay. Although she was sure that the nurse had run right off flapping her gums with the gossip, not that it had anything to do with the reason that they were there.

He quickly placed the white electrodes at several points along Erin’s torso, and then flipped the switch on the machine. He leaned closer to watch the blips that appeared on the small screen. They waited for several minutes before he said anything. "Okay everything looks normal here as well."

After he removed the wires, Erin sat up and it was obvious that she was ready to hop down from the high bench without saying anything about her other injury.

"Tell him about your shoulder Erin," said Jamie.

An audible, unhappy huff of air was released form his mouth as he moved around behind her. "Which one?" he asked. Receiving his answer, he pulled the lose shirt away from the area and easily probed the bruise. "I want to do an x-ray on that." He reached into a low cabinet and grabbed a short, cloth top with ties in the front. Handing it to Erin he said, "Remove everything from the waist up and put this on. I’ll give you a few minutes to change then the nurse will be back to get you. And I’ll check on you," he nodded to Jamie. "while those pictures are being taken."

Erin shrugged off her shirt, wincing again. "Boy he’s a ball of sunshine," she whispered.

Jamie jumped up just as Erin was about the reach behind with one hand. "Here let me get that." She bent closer to whisper in her lover’s ear as she undid the hooks on Erin’s bra. "I’ve had lots of practice."

Erin giggled and leaned back against the tall body for just a second, wishing she were home and in bed. Jamie slipped the lose garment up over her arms and shoulders, just finishing tying the white strings as nurse Carol walked back.

"I’m sorry," she said shifting her gaze to the corner. "I’m here to take Miss Casey for x-rays."

Erin hopped off the table, lightly poking Jamie in the ribs. "Answer the doctor honestly," she instructed.

"Yes Miss, I’ll just forget to mention my bad shoulder."

Erin responded with a coy grin.

About fifteen minutes later, Erin returned to find Jamie sitting in the exact same chair that she had previously occupied. "She said it would be about ten more minutes before he’d be back with the results. What did he say about you?"

"Same as you, pretty normal."

"I get the feeling everyone else in this building considers us anything but normal," Erin said, reaching for her clothes.

Jamie grabbed the white bra and stuffed it into the pocket of her jacket. "You don’t need to wear that home." She comically leered at her smaller partner, enjoying the laugh she received.

 

* * * *

Jamie rolled down her window, hoping the cool air would keep her senses sharp as she drove the winding roads back to the ranch. Nothing but headlights guided the way through the darkness. The pale moon was playing hide and seek among the leftover clouds. She slowed her speed as she navigated around a hairpin turn, her wheels screeching slightly. Once the road straightened back out, she glanced over to see the blonde head leaning against the window, fast asleep. Jamie smiled as she clearly remembered the last time Erin had fallen asleep in the car.

There had been a fire in the building where Erin was working and Jamie had showed up just in time to save her. The author, who was then blind, became confused in the rush to escape and had gotten trapped in an office. They both survived unscathed, but exhausted and the small blond had fallen asleep on their way home.

There was one difference she noted, Erin’s left arm now rested in a blue sling. The doctor had said it was sprained and recommended wearing the sling for a few days and using ice packs on the bruise and the swelling.

Jamie soon pulled up to the house and shut off the engine. She called Erin twice, but only received a mumbled not now. The tired and frustrated woman got out of the car and went to open the passenger side door. "Erin, come on now we have to go in the house. You can’t sleep here all night." She leaned down and kissed the blonde head. "As much as I would love to be able to carry you into the house Baby, I can’t. I’m afraid my back would give out and we’d both fall."

That proved to initiate the author into action. "No, no, you can’t do that. I’m going."

They supported one another and slowly made their way inside and up the stairs. Jamie proceeded to strip her lover of her clothing in a most unsensual, but practical way. Still feeling chilled, she dug their heavier pajamas from the bottom drawer of the dresser. Once dressed, Erin snuggled into the covers.

Jamie smoothed down the mussed blonde hair. "I know you’re already cold Honey, but I’m going to get an ice pack to put on your shoulder."

A disoriented nod was the only response.

After placing a towel and the blue bag under Erin’s shoulder, Jamie cuddled close to ward off the extra chill. She fell asleep in just seconds and didn’t awake until nine hours later.

 

* * * *

 

It was another cloudy day and it was Sunday, which meant that Dan and Jackson, the two ranch hands, had the day off. That had its good and bad points, Jamie thought as she sat by the window in their bedroom. She would have to take care of cleaning the barn all by herself, but then she had the rest of the day all alone to spend with Erin. And they really needed it, especially now. She took another sip of her rich coffee as she looked back to the bed, a concerned smile coming to her face. Jamie had been up for over two hours, but her lover hadn’t stirred a muscle. It made sense; Erin did take the worst of it in last night’s encounter with Mother Nature’s Zeus impression. Still, it didn’t keep the tall woman from checking every half hour to make sure Erin was still breathing.

Jamie set her mug down on the end table and once again settled herself next to the woman she loved. She watched closely for each breath that moved Erin’s chest up and back down, slowly and evenly. Paranoia be damned. After all we’ve been through I think it’s perfectly reasonable to be just a little paranoid. I wonder what the shrink will have to say about that. She knew that seeing a therapist was the right thing to do…but that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. With a single finger Jamie pushed back a sprig of hair that blocked her view of Erin’s angelic face. A happy grin lit up Jamie’s face. That’s exactly what I thought when we first met. I remember it perfectly. Jamie rolled over on her back and stared at the ceiling. God I never thought I’d be able to say that. She turned her head to Erin once again. I never should have gotten mad at you. It’s all so clear to me now what you wanted. You didn’t want it for you, you wanted it for me. Jamie took a deep breath. God we’re both feeling so much guilt. There’s no blame, just guilt. That’s what we need help with.

A rustling of trees against the window drew Jamie’s attention. I really should get out there and get those things done in case it rains again. But she put that off until sleeping beauty woke up. With Erin’s, somewhat, fragile emotional state, Jamie didn’t want to frighten her by being gone. So she just lay there quietly waiting.

Erin’s dreamless mind ascended at a snail’s pace from the abyss of slumber she had fallen into. The first solid thing to great her senses was the dull ache in her shoulder. The second thing was the just slightly duller ache in her whole body. Her nose twitched. I know that smell. I like that smell. Coffee. The blonde head snuggled into the soft pillow, one last time. Her eyes fluttered. A lazy smile appeared. Even without her glasses she immediately recognized that fuzzy, tanned silhouette. "Hi."

"Hi," the blurry image answered back.

Those happy, blue eyes came into perfect focus as Jamie leaned in closer and greeted Erin with a kiss.

"How are you feeling?" Jamie asked, staying just inches from the sleepy face.

Erin momentarily forgot and shrugged with her injured shoulder. "Owwww," she whined.

"That good huh? Don’t worry Ms. Casey, Doctor Jamie is here and at your service. Today’s therapies include a hearty scrambled egg breakfast and plenty of bed rest. Perhaps a hot soak for those sore muscles and I might even have to…"

The next words were whispered in her ear. Erin giggled. "I wish I felt a whole lot better so I could really enjoy playing doctor with you."

Jamie tapped a button nose. "You will, my Dear, you will. But today we aren’t playing. Today I am both lover and nursemaid, just as you were right before Thanksgiving last year. Your TLC was invaluable and I intend to reciprocate in full."

Erin returned from the bathroom to find Jamie dressed and ready to go. She quickly shuffled forward when she spotted the recently refilled, red mug heading for Jamie’s mouth. "Oh,Oh, that’s what I’m missing. Share?"

Jamie passed off the warm beverage. "This and everything else I have for the rest of my life. I’m going downstairs to make you breakfast, so hop back into that bed and relax. What?" she asked when the cute little pout covered her lover’s face.

Erin twisted back and forth, swinging her good arm. "Can’t I come and watch you?"

Jamie took her hand and laughed. "Okay little girl, you can watch. Then back to bed."

"Yes Mommy," said Erin playing along with their little verbal game.

 

After the meal was finished and the dishes put away, Jamie settled her lover into the big, comfortable recliner in front of the television. Erin had convinced her that she would be too bored all alone in their room. The dark haired woman handed her the remote and the cordless. She clipped her own phone to the side of her brown belt. "Call me if you need anything," she instructed.

"I’ll be fine Sweetheart, really. The food helped. I’m feeling better."

Jamie gave her a kiss. "Call me anyway. It shouldn’t take too long. Love you," she called out as she disappeared into the hall.

 

Erin had fibbed just a bit. Her shoulder was beginning to ache with more intensity. And she was sure that she hadn’t fooled her partner for a second. After a few slow deep breaths, she tried to ignore the pain and flipped on the television. Sunday morning didn’t bring a lot of interesting choices for relaxing viewing, but after flipping through a few dozen channels, Erin finely settled on an old black and white movie. Her eyes watched the images moving across the screen, but her ears didn’t catch but the first few words. Erin’s thoughts turned to the events of the night before…of the weeks before…of the months before. Her eyes fell shut and she sighed heavily, mentally listing the emotional valleys of the previous nine months. I get my sight back, then I think Jamie dies. I become depressed then move my life from the beach to the ranch and get lost in a fantasy world. I just slightly recover from that and go to Ireland and fall in love with a stranger. I return home and find out that the woman I love now is the love of my life, who never really died…only she doesn’t remember any of our life together. All the while, I’m still dealing with a father who won’t accept me for who I am. Then he does a one eighty and I learn his actions were because of some deep buried trauma he suffered as a teenager. Finally, I get struck by lightning and Jamie gets her memory back. Erin grimaced and rubbed her weary eyes. Oh yeah, therapy. She fumbled for the phone that had fallen into the space between the chair and her leg. She pressed in the several digit number, but it wouldn’t connect her to the woman in the barn.

"Hello," answered the voice on the other end of the line.

"Hi Anne, it’s Erin." Dr. Anne Carson was one of Erin’s best friends. They had gone to collage together and Anne had helped Erin explore her sexuality. They had never been lovers, but Anne was instrumental in informing Erin of the ins and outs, so to speak, of the gay lifestyle.

"Honey, I’m glad to hear from you. How are you doing?"

"Well, have you got about an hour to listen to my unbelievable tale?"

 

* * * *

Jamie returned just after eleven o’clock to find Erin scouting the kitchen for something she could fix one handed. "Honey, if you were hungry why didn’t you call me?"

Erin’s response was delayed by a rather hearty kiss. "Oh, I was, I was. I just wanted to see what we had around here."

Jamie took in the somewhat barren refrigerator. "I guess we need to go shopping huh?"

"Yeah," she agreed. "but tomorrow." She turned and flashed her a look. "That is if you will go into town and get pizza for dinner?"

Jamie laughed and pulled her into a hug. "You can cut out the puppy dog eyes. Don’t you know by now that if you asked me to crawl on my hands and knees to the Arctic circle, that I would without a seconds hesitation?"

"Just to town will be fine," said Erin.

Jamie dropped to all fours. "I’d better get started now."

Erin giggled as she watched her lover crawl to the door.

The raven-haired woman stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "You were planning to stop me weren’t you?"

Erin just stood there grinning.

Jamie stood and brushed off her hands and knees. "Uh, huh. That’s what I thought."

Erin did manage to scare up a few items for a fairly substantial lunch. And Jamie set about preparing them with the helpful instructions of her partner.

During the meal, Erin told Jamie about her morning phone call. "Anne thinks it’s a really good idea for us to see a therapist. She was just sorry that I didn’t ask her help earlier. Anyway, she recommended Doctor Jennifer Webber. She specializes in counseling gays and lesbians. Actually she is in the building just across the street from where I saw that first therapist. I guess I just didn’t research my options very well at the time."

Jamie reached over and rubbed Erin’s hand. "She sounds like a good choice Honey. Why don’t you call tomorrow and see when we can get an appointment."

"I also invited Anne to come up here and stay for the weekend. But it will a couple of weeks before she’ll have the time."

"That’s great. I don’t want you to feel so isolated way up here away from the city and everyone you know."

"I don’t feel isolated. If anything the peacefulness around here is what has allowed me to keep some sense of sanity. If we were still back in the city…"

"I know Honey. We are going to be all right. I love you."

"I love you too."


More to come soon.

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