Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll © 2009 By Cyberdyke

This story depicts a consenting sexual relationship between adult women, oh and a man and a women too. There is occasional bad language and violence.
Disclaimer: All characters are fictitious and made up from the depths of my mind. Any similarities with living or dead people just sucks.

 

Sex, Death and Rock n’ Roll – Part 3

Melissa and Kris emerged dressed, holding hands and ready to face the day later that morning into the main room of the suite, and found Tony had replaced her hotel robe with a t-shirt, jeans and bare feet. Her hair was still mussed as she was in the middle of a phone conversation.

“No… No… I don’t really have any idea… Maybe you should ask her yourself… I don’t think that’s any of your business… NO! I absolutely will not… I’ll tell her you called when I see her. Bye.” She dropped the phone on its cradle with a single ring of the phone’s bell.

Understanding was written on Kris’ face as she looked at her niece. “My big brother again?”

Tony looked up, frustration clearly evident on her face. “How’d you know? Do you know he actually wants me to ask you if you’re having safe sex! Why the hell does he think that’s anyone’s business?!”

Kris’ whole body shivered. “That is so creepy to think of Franklin wanting to know about my sexual habits; eeewwwwww!”

Melissa watched the two women and chuckled.

Tony pushed her ebony hair back behind one ear. “I think it’s time that Mom sits him down and has a talk with him.”

Kris was looking off in space and wondering aloud, “Suppose I could just put a press release together and send it to him?”

Tony scrubbed at her face, looking really tired. “I could use a drink!”

Melissa looked surprised, which tinged her voice. “It’s not even noon! I swear the spirits flow freely around here, don’t they.” She smirked as she sat down on the couch across from the younger woman. “Bet you didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Kris addressed her surrogate sister “Yeah, and I’m hungry too! How about some pizza?” She moved to the phone and snatched it up.

Tony stuck her tongue out at the blond. “No more than you rabbits did I’m sure.” Addressing Kris, she replied, “Yeah, I could go for some pizza. This is supposed to be the pizza capital of the world, right?”

Melissa chuckled as she confirmed, “Yeah, Chicago deep dish is supposed to be ‘to die for’.”

The door to their room opened and Rick let himself in. “Hey.”

Melissa thought to herself, He reminds me of Lenny and Squiggy, coming in here like that.

Tony rolled her eyes. “I thought you had the women of Chicago to conquer?”

He sat down on the couch next to Tony, making himself at home. “Yeah, well, I’ve decided to give you guys my undivided attention instead.” He gave his most charming smile and then motioned at Kris. “What’s up?”

“Pizza run,” Tony replied, flipping through the channels with the mute on. An aside to Melissa, with a knowing look and wink, “Means he struck out.”

Melissa laughed and knowingly nodded her head.

Rick gave them a withering look and was about to defend his reputation when there was a knock on the door, and as he moved to answer it, he called to Kris, “Don’t get any damn anchovies on the pizza; I hate those things!” He opened the door to find a tall, strikingly beautiful woman in her early forties, with shoulder-length black hair and dark complexion, standing there grinning at him.

Rick threw his arms around the woman, and shouted happily, “Bridget!”

Tony sat up and looked over the back of her chair, and in a surprised tone asked, “Mom?” She jumped to her feet and vaulted over the furniture hurriedly to hug her mother. They happily walked arm in arm back into the room, talking quietly.

Kris had the phone in one hand and was wearing a toothy smile as she high-fived Bridget with the other. “Hey Bree, what’d you want on your pizza?”

Bridget made a sour face. “No anchovies, I hate those damn things! But anything else is cool.” Bridget sat on the couch next to her daughter, crossing one long leg over her other knee, cheerfully asking. “So how is everyone?” Glancing around the room she noticed Melissa. “Hello, I don’t think we’ve met…”

Hanging up the phone, Kris formally made the introductions. “Bridget, I’m sorry, this is Melissa Davis. Melissa, this is Tony’s mother, Bridget Clearwater. She kept her maiden name.”

Bridget was smiling as she sat forward and shook hands with the blond woman. “Melissa, it’s very nice to meet you.”

Melissa returned the gesture, and smiled openly. “I’m very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Clearwater. I’ve heard a lot about you.” She couldn’t get over the resemblance of mother and daughter as they sat together on the couch. They shared the same nose, cheekbones, smile and certain gestures.

Bridget sat back, making a dismissive action with her hand. “Drop that Mrs. shit, and just call me Bridget, everyone does.” She inquired, with a perfectly manicured eyebrow raised, “A friend of Kris’?”

Melissa smiled as Bridget discretely inquired at the relationship between Kris and herself. “Yes Ma’am, we met last month in Portland,”

Bridget coyly said, “I thought so; you look like Kris’s type, dear.”

Kris blushed slightly. “My type? Jesus Bree, I knew I should have talked with you sooner. I didn’t know I had a ‘type’.”

Melissa thought Kris blushing was the cutest thing she’d seen. She thought she could detect a slight Mexican accent on the older woman, but wasn’t completely sure.

Tony swallowed hard and looked worried, “I hate to ask, but what is my type?”

Bridget turned to look at her daughter; there was mischief brewing in her eyes. “I’ll tell you when you bring the right one home, dear.”

Kris and Rick exchanged surprised looks; Kris suddenly blushed as she met Melissa’s gaze, as all children she was slightly embarrassed by her parent. Kris nervously laughed. “She’s on medication and we mostly just ignore her.”

Bridget looked indignant, as she used her ‘mother’ voice, to dress down the impudent child. “Kristen Caysi Cutler! You are supposed to respect your elders… or you’ll get your hide tanned!”

Melissa began to laugh.

Bridget looked none too happy, and in a superior tone asked, “Do you find something funny, my dear?”

Melissa tried to cover her chuckles with a hand over her mouth, but they just kept escaping. “Well yes, all of this. I like you, very much. And I think you have impeccable timing.”

Bridget’s mood changed instantly and she smiled broadly. “But of course! I think we are going to get along swimmingly.”

Tony reached down and grabbed up the remote and set the TV on VH1 softly in the background. “You just missed talking with Franklin.” She tossed the remote onto the coffee table in front of her. “I think he needs to be set straight…”

Kris sighed exasperatedly and interrupted. “He’s really interested in my sexual habits.”

All three of the band members shivered at the same time and said in unison, “Eeewwww!”

Bridget didn’t sound surprised. “He wants to talk to you. Ever since your announcement, he’s been a bit concerned.”

Kris rolled her eyes as she sat on the arm of the couch next to Melissa. “I’m a big girl; I don’t really need his advice about safe sex. The birds and bees talk is a little overdue, don’t you think?”

Bridget regarded her sister-in-law. “Oh yeah, I think it’s way past time for that conversation. He’s just concerned about you, doesn’t want you to get hurt is all.”

Picking up her hands and then letting them drop on her thighs, Kris replied, “I realize that, and it’s very sweet. However, discussing my sex life with my brother is just too creepy.”

Bridget looked serious. “I can see how you’d feel that way. Would you just talk to him though?”

Kris looked resigned and nodded her head. “Sure.”

Now that the family drama was out of the way, Rick looked up at his surrogate mother with a creased brow. “What are you doing here?”

Bridget replied, “I had been sent to do an interview….”

Rick was incredulous as he interrupted, “With us?!”

Bridget tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear. “No, some financial wizard. I arrived a couple of days early because the weather has been crappy. I know how that makes you kids cranky. With Kris’ announcement, I felt that might make for some interesting times. All in all, I figured that all would not be right in Mudville, and that y’all might just need a shoulder to cry on.”

Tony looked in wonder at her mother as she exclaimed, “How do you do that? Is that like some sixth sense for mothers only?” She looked over at Rick, her eyebrow raised and a smirk on her lips. “Some people have been really bent…. out of shape recently.”

Bridget wore a knowing smile. “Yes, I’m rather surprised not to see you all at each other’s throats.” Bridget winked at Melissa. “But then you are being nice in front of company, aren’t you?”

Tony made a big production of whispering an aside to her mother, “I think someone is jealous.”

Rick looked up surprised. “What? I am not!” He reached over with a pillow and swatted his niece.

Bridget looked on amused, and in a Shakespearian accent announced, “Methinks he doth protest too much.”

Rick hurled the pillow at the older woman. “Shut up! Jeez.”

Kris winked at Tony. “Yeah, I finally have someone hanging off my arm, and he’s jealous.”

The two friends high fived each other.

Rick looked disgusted and replied, “Why the hell would I be jealous of her.” He pointed at Melissa.

Kris instantly stiffened, the smile slipping from her face, her eyes becoming stormy. Her voice was low and held a warning. “Watch what you say little bro.”

Bridget’s eyebrows rose as she watched this exchange, Interesting.

For a moment there was a look of defiance that crossed Rick’s face before he looked away, making a concession movement with his hand.

Tony was still wrapped up in the humor and nudged Kris with her elbow in the ribs. Kris winced, trying to hide the pain.

Bridget asked in a concerned voice, “Girl, what did you do to yourself?”

Damn! Nothing escapes her attention. Kris downplayed it. “Oh nothing, just a pulled muscle.”

Tony laughed, “Yeah, why am I not surprised?”

Bridget folded her hands on the pillow that Rick had thrown at her, that rested in her lap. “I know there is something you want to tell me.” This was not a request.

Kris didn’t look at Bridget. “Last night, at the sound check, we had a little accident.” She continued to avoid the older woman’s gaze and played with her hands. “A sandbag fell, no big deal.” Kris looked up and met Bridget’s gaze briefly.

Bridget decided to let it go for now. She had seen the look of surprise cross Melissa’s face, and figured she’d get the story from the blond later. Bridget commented, “Well it sounds like you had yourselves an interesting weekend so far.”

Rick muttered under his breath, “Wait, the best is yet to come.”

Bridget looked critically at him. “Don’t think I didn’t hear that. So what’re you referring to mister?”

Tony gave a withering look to Rick and said nothing. As if on cue, the door to her bedroom opened and Paige emerged, hair wet and clad in her trademark robe. She walked over to where Tony was sitting and put her arms around Tony’s neck over the back of the couch and pulled her in for a very passionate kiss.

The others looked on in surprise.

Kris cleared her throat, but it had no effect. Clearing it louder, she looked expectantly at the couple. The only response was a slight moan when Tony’s hand came up and tangled in the wet hair.

Kris, Rick and Melissa began to cough loudly, as the couple finally broke their kiss.

Tony’s face was flushed as Paige was running her fingers through Tony’s jet-black tresses.

Tony wore a smile of pure pleasure as she finally focusing on her mom. “OH!!!” Swallowing hard, a blush going dark scarlet on her face as she tried to pull herself together, Tony grabbed the adoring woman’s hands, stilling them and said, “Mom,” heavy emphasis on this particular word, “This is Paige…” She didn’t know the woman’s last name, and the woman was too busy kissing Tony’s neck to provide it to her.

Kris began to laugh.

Bridget replied coolly, crossing her arms across her chest; her face was unreadable, “Hello.”

Rick cleared his throat, breaking the tension. “I’m going to go check my messages.” As he headed out the door, he was chuckling all the way.

Melissa took Kris’ hand and started walking back toward their room. “Kris, can you help me with that item I asked you about earlier?”

Kris pulled Melissa close and began kissing the side of her neck. “I think their idea is a better one.”

Bridget arched a dark eyebrow, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “Want me to call you when the pizza gets here?”

Kris threw Melissa over her shoulder. She  said over Melissa squawked good natured protest, “You’re a peach!” The two women disappeared laughing behind the other door.

Tony suddenly got to her feet and beat a hasty retreat with Paige into their room, using Kris’ diversion to her advantage.

Bridget sat on the couch, trying to sort through her feelings. Her head and her feelings were reeling. It was hard not to think of Tony, Kris and Rick as children. Of course she knew that they were all adults and way past the age of consent, but being confronted with Kris and Tony being sexually active surprised her.  She had known almost from the time she joined the family that Rick was sexually active – and never gave it another thought.

She always thought of herself as open-minded, and she trusted them completely, but to actually see it in action was another thing. To see her little girl engaged in it was something she thought she was ready for, but in reality she wasn’t prepared for it.

Or was it the fact that it was a woman that is bothering you? her little voice asked.

Bridget shook her head. Couldn’t be that, she had no problem with Kris being gay…

Tis another story when it’s your own daughter… the voice mocked.

That got Bridget thinking. She considered Kris both as a daughter and a sister-in-law. She had always thought of herself as being open minded, not much fazed her, but this had really gotten under her skin. It had to be the fact that it was a surprise. Once I get to know the girl, I’m sure I’ll feel just fine…

What if this is a one-night-stand? Face it, Tony’s sleeping around, and you can’t handle it. The little voice was back again. Gods, she hated it when the voice was right.

Before long Rick returned, smiling, to find Bridget sitting on the couch. “Hey, where’s everybody?”

Bridget responded, staring blindly at VH1, “Changing.” Now there’s an understatement if I’ve heard it!

Rick thought, Boy, ain’t that the truth? Before he had a chance to sit down, there was a knock at the door. “That will be the pizza!” he announced over his shoulder as he went to answer it.

Bridget went over to knock on Kris’ door. “Ladies, pizza’s here.” She suddenly heard Melissa shout Kris’ name loudly from behind the door. Feeling herself blush all the way to her toes, she returned to the couch. Wow, this is going to be harder to deal with than I thought! I’m too fucking old for this.

Rick’s brow was furrowed as he came back with the pizzas. “Where are they?”

Bridget chuckled nervously. “Ah, they’re busy.”

Not getting it, Rick knocked on Tony’s door. “Pizza’s here!” Not getting a response, he put his ear to the door and listened.

Bridget ordered, “Rick! Get away from there.” Feeling very awkward. “I’m going to go check my phone messages; I’ll be back shortly.”

Rick’s brow knitted as he watched her leave. “More pizza for me!” He grabbed a piece and threw himself onto the couch, turning up the volume on the TV to concert level.

divider

Some time later, Kris and Melissa emerged from their room arm in arm, laughing and dressed once again. Tony and Rick were sitting on the couch watching TV and eating pizza.

“Where’s Bridget?” Kris asked, as Melissa sat down in an overstuffed chair and pulled Kris down into her lap.

Around a mouthful of pizza, Tony replied, “She’ll be here shortly.”

Looking disgusted at the couple, Rick asked, “Did you have fun?”

Melissa reached over and picked up a piece of pizza. “To be perfectly honest with you,” she smiled sweetly as she popped a piece of pepperoni into Kris’ mouth before continuing, “It’s none of your damn business.”

Kris smiled sardonically at him, then turned her attention to Tony. “Where’s Paige?”

Tony was laughing. “Good one Melissa!” She got up and gave Melissa a high five. Answering her aunt’s question, she said, “She had to go back to her room and check on some stuff, said she’d be back later.”

Tiring of Rick staring at her constantly, Melissa asked, “Is there a problem?”

Rick’s tone was hostile, as he looked at her through narrowed eyes. “Where do you get off, talking to me like that?”

Melissa’s tone was light as she chuckled. “Excuse me, but what goes on between Kris and I is our business. I wasn’t aware that I had to clear things with you.”

Kris found this all very amusing and watched the display almost like a tennis match, munching happily on her pizza and smiling.

Rick’s look was anything but amused. “You’re here as a guest; you’d better watch your step…”

Melissa wore an innocent inquiring look as she stole Kris’ line. “Or what?”

Kris smiled, but there was fire in her eyes as she looked cautiously at him and waved her index finger back and forth. “Careful, brother dear.”

Tony was watching the exchange with enthusiasm. “I can’t wait to actually hear Rick’s response myself.”

Rick’s voice rose, as he pointed to Melissa. “How would you like to find yourself on a plane back home?”

Kris and Tony howled with laughter. Kris was holding her stomach as tears ran down Tony’s cheeks.

Tony breathlessly begged, “Make him stop, please!”

He shouted, sounding like petulant child, “I could do it!”

As if a switch had been thrown, Kris became very serious, with almost a feral grin crossing her lips. “You try anything that stupid and you’ll find yourself in a band without a drummer. And in traction, possibly missing a few…” she looked pointedly at his crotch, “Body parts.”

The room became very quiet, as the joking atmosphere evaporated.

Rick realized that he had just crossed the line and pushed Kris too far. He was amazed that Kris had just put something before the band. Nothing had ever come between Kris and her music. They were like one entity. He could see it in Kris’ eyes, that she was absolutely serious about this threat; he swallowed hard and dropped his eyes.

It finally hit home. Kris was serious about this woman. Could she actually be in love? The concept was almost foreign to him. Oh of course he understood what it meant, but it had never happened to him. He had vowed a long time ago that he wasn’t going to allow himself to be hurt by anyone again. And there was much too much pain involved in loving someone.

The phone rang, shattering the tense silence in the room. Tony, sitting closest to the instrument, picked it up. “Hello? Ah yeah, just a second.” Tony put her hand over the receiver. “Rick, it’s Tess.”

Kris reached for another slice of pizza and strongly suggested, “Take it in the other room.”

Rick let out a sigh of relief as he got up quickly and headed for Tony’s room.

Once the door was closed, Kris’s demeanor was back to the happy, joking woman as she stated, “I thought he’d never leave!” She turned her attention fully on Tony. “I want to hear what happened last night! All the gory details” She smiled and looked expectantly at her niece.

Tony looked astonished, with her dark brows raised nearly to her hairline. “Excuse me?! What was it you said to me?” She looked thoughtful, with her index finger resting on her chin. “Ah yes, I remember now. ‘I don’t kiss and tell, and I sure as hell don’t fuck and tell.’ I believe was the direct quote, was it not?” Her eyes twinkled and the corner of her mouth was pulled up in a smirk. “You don’t see me asking you about last night do you?”

Kris corrected, holding both her hands out in front of her palms up, “All right, but that’s only applicable after your first time.”

Tony looked at Kris with a mixture of annoyance and humor. “Oh I see; the rules keep changing.”

Kris gave her friend her trademark smile, and flexed her eyebrows.

Melissa playfully slapped Kris’ knee, dismissing the teasing woman. “Did you enjoy it?”

The two women looked at Melissa in surprise and then at each other, laughing.

The blush gave Melissa just a hint of innocence, which Kris thought made her adorable. Melissa smiled slightly and held out her hands in front of her and explained, “I’m sorry to be so blunt, but your first time should be special.”

Tony mocked disdain. “Jesus Kris!! Did you have to go off and tell the whole world?! Then added, “You must be getting addle brained in your old age; this isn’t my first time with a woman”

Kris tried to defend herself and make her actions sound all right; she looked a tad unsure. “Just Melissa. Technically that is true. But this time you bagged her yourself, so it is a first time.”

Tony gave Kris a smoldering look, then turned and smiled fully at Melissa. “I’m only talking to Melissa because she has been so nice and she has the most beautiful eyes…”

Kris sat up straighter on her lover’s lap and seemed to be very tense. “I beg your pardon?”

Melissa smiled encouragingly at Tony, ignoring Kris completely. “Why thank you.”

With a flirty smile Tony continued, “In a word, it was fantastic!” She turned her attention directly on Kris. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me sooner how great this is?”

Kris was taken off guard for a moment, then replied in a smug tone, “I was trying to save it all for myself.”

Tony rolled her eyes. “Figures.” Her brow was furrowed as she continued, “I have to say though, I’m not sure that I’m not also interested in men.”

Melissa brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “Been there, done that.”

Again both women looked at her in surprise.

Melissa simply shrugged her shoulders.

Kris flexed her eyebrows looking at her lover. “We have got to talk.”

Melissa tilted her head, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “Actually, you should experience at least one man to realize that women are the only true choice!”

Kris set her elbow on her knee and then rested her chin on her fist. “Really?”

Through a mouthful of pizza, Melissa asked, “So you’ve never been with one then?”

Kris sat up, feeling self-conscious, realizing that she hadn’t played by the same rules as the other two women. “Ah…. not to do the deed.”

It was Melissa’s turn to look intrigued. “Really? You didn’t want to find out what all the fuss was about?”

Kris looked perplexed. “Ah, well I think I was just too busy watching the girls.”

Tony chuckled as she teased her new friend. “Do tell Dr. Ruth.”

Melissa laughed, then leaned over and kissed the dark haired woman in her lap. In a German accent she replied, “Today class, we will discuss men.” Chuckling, and in her normal voice, she continued, “They are hard, rough, smelly and crude. Once you’ve been with a woman, there is no comparison.”

Melissa didn’t know that Rick had emerged from the bedroom; arms crossed across his chest, he was leaning against the doorjamb, listening with an amused look on his face.

Tony tucked her hair behind her ear. “So when did you have this revelation?”

Melissa pulled her leg up in front of her and wrapped her arms around it. “Well when I was in college, right out of high school, I was confused. I was drawn to all of my friend girls…”

Tony was eating a string of mozzarella that connected her pizza to the box when she interrupted, “…Didn’t you say that wrong?”

Melissa took a swig from her beer bottle and continued, “That’s the distinction I make between friends and lovers. Anyway, I had this great attraction to the women, but when I dated the men on campus I felt uncomfortable and out of control. I decided I wasn’t going to die an old maid, so on my next date I went all the way with the guy.”

Kris wore mock disdain. “Shocked! Shocked, I’m shocked.”

Melissa gave the drummer a smoldering look that she wasn’t able to pull off as she broke into a smile. “Don’t get me wrong, it was a guy that I really liked, but it was an awful experience. I got absolutely nothing out of it, except pain. I was fortunate enough to have an upper classmate take me under her wing and she initiated me. It was gentle and caring, filled with love and understanding. She was interested in my needs as well as her own. The difference was day and night.”

Rick piped up, “But he was probably just inexperienced, unlike myself.”

Melissa turned around quickly, looking startled that he was listening.

Rick looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, was this a private conversation?”

Kris gave him a stern look. “Only if it bothers Melissa.”

Melissa shook her head no and turned back around to the women.

Rick rejoined the group, sitting down next to Tony and picked up a slice of pizza.

Melissa ran a hand through her hair, took a deep breath, and continued, “My mentor actually thought of that, so she encouraged me to go out with an older man this time. But the results were the same.”

Rick looked doubtful. “So on that basis you decided you were gay?”

Melissa felt her defenses coming on line. “Those experiences were really the last straw. I had feelings for women my whole life… as far back as I could remember. Every experience I had in a date situation with a male always made me feel the same way, scared, trapped and out of control.”

Rick reached for Tony’s beer and took a drink. “What do you mean out of control.”

Tony slapped Rick’s shoulder, giving him a displeased look, and took her beer back.

Melissa was careful how she used her words. “I mean the evening, the situation, was in his hands; he was guiding the outcome, which was to have sex.”

Rick had to think about that for a moment. “So you’re saying that whenever I go on a date, my main goal is sex?”

There was a chorus from the three women. “Yes.”

Kris picked up a fresh brew and tossed it to her brother.

He caught the bottle and unscrewed the top, tossing it onto the coffee table. “I don’t buy it.” He took a drink, sitting back and getting comfortable.

Tony was talking with a slice of pizza in her hand. “Think about it Rick. Last night, what were we doing?”

He shrugged. “Cruising for chicks.”

Kris pointed her beer at him. “For what purpose?

He took another pull from the beer. “To have a good time.”

Kris sat forward and pressed her point, “Which is a euphemism for getting laid, right?”

Rick protested, “Not always!”

Kris knew he was dancing around the truth, and she looked it. “You went out cruising for chicks and then you got laid, didn’t you?!”

Rick looked sheepishly. “Well dah.”

Melissa tried to reason with him. “So you were in control of the situation from the moment you entered the bar. You were simply looking for the most willing partner.”

He looked at Kris, his brow creased in confusion. “But it was your idea for her to come here. Didn’t you want to get laid?”

Kris smiled, looking fondly at Melissa. “Not necessarily. I wanted to get to know Melissa better.”

Rick ran a hand through his platinum locks, feeling that he was missing something. “So you’re saying they aren’t mutually exclusive?”

Kris chuckled, seeing his dilemma. “I’m having a great time, and I think I’ve met my objective.”

Tony smiled knowingly. “I had a great time last night, and was really surprised at the outcome of the evening.”

Melissa took a drink of her beer. “This is why men and women don’t get along. We have way different thinking patterns. I’m not sure we were ever meant to interact, except for breeding.”

Rick put on the headphones from around his neck, asking, “Oh please! You’re not going to start in with that stuff about how we should all live on different planets?”

Kris looked at him like he was so deluded. “My little brother still believes in the old adage, that ‘you just need the right fuck’.”

He held out his hands and looked quizzically at the women. “Dah! And you’re point would be?” He held one headphone off his ear and continued, “If you don’t have the right experiences, then you don’t know what you’re missing. What did you just say, that your first time with your mentor was ‘gentle and caring’ and that she was ‘interested in your needs as well as her own?’ That’s how I’ve always treated all my women.”

Tony looked disgusted as she asked around a mouthful of pizza, “Have you ever not had sex with a woman?”

Rick thought about it.

Kris sounded sarcastic. “He has had so many women, it should take him awhile to answer this one.”

He looked up at his niece and replied in a very sincere tone, “Well I guess the answer to that question would be, yes.”

Kris looked dumbstruck as she challenged, “Bull!”

Tony made a dismissive action, waving her hand at him, exclaiming, “Get out of here!”

He tried to look hurt. “I can’t believe you don’t believe me?”

Kris demanded. “I want names and dates, lover boy!”

Looking very resolved, he replied, “Alright! Tony here.”

Kris shook her head in agreement. “Well, I guess that’s true. He’s been trying to get to first base with you since day one.”

Melissa looked sad as she asked Rick, “That must really be a blow to your ego?”

Rick ignored Melissa’s comment, not sure if she was sincere or if she was goading him. Turning to his sister, he dared her, “Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me that you didn’t have the same feelings?”

Kris answered very matter-of-factly, “Yes. I can with complete honesty say that.”

Rick charged, pointing his finger at her, “You’re only saying that because of Melissa.”

Kris’s words came out very deliberately, “No I’m not!”

Tony came to her aunt’s defense, looking thoughtful. “I’ll back her up; she’s telling the truth. Otherwise I would have sensed it.”

Rick looked up to the ceiling. “Please! Give me a break!”

Melissa held out her hand and explained, “Women are more tuned in than men. We are much more sensitive to things like that.”

Rick looked pained. “I don’t buy that crap that men are insensitive apes.”

Melissa was fully into the debate now as she countered, “Men are though. Some are worse than others, but you are on different wavelength than us.”

Looking sternly at her, Rick asked, “Are you one of those feminists?”

Melissa answered without missing a beat. “Yes. And men always ask this question when the questions start making them feel uneasy.”

Kris looked hard at Rick. “What does being a feminist have to do with the price of peas in China ?”

Rick was backpedaling. “Well… I… could just tell by the way she was expressing herself that she was probably a…”

Kris interrupted, “Rick I’ve always thought of myself as one.”

Tony crossed her arms over her chest. “Me too. I’m sure my mom is one as well.”

Rick looked from one woman to the other, feeling that they were circling in for the kill.

Tony looked doubtfully at Rick. “Why is it that whenever a man doesn’t feel comfortable answering a question, they instantly jump to the defense that we’re feminists or that we’re having our periods?”

Rick looked scared. “Oh, I’ll not make that mistake again!”

Melissa took a sip of her beer. “Why?”

A knock at the door, and then Bridget was waving a cheery hello to the group. “Hey! What’s up?”

Tony returned the wave, and explained, “Rick was just about to tell us why he won’t make a costly mistake again.”

Bridget sat down next to Tony, snagging a piece of pizza and unscrewing the top of a beer. She prodded around a mouthful of pizza, “Well don’t leave us in suspense.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “When I was in high school, Kris and I were practicing a new song I had just written, and she was having a hard time getting the right feel into the song. So in frustration I asked her if she was having her period or something… Damn, I thought she was going to take my head clean off.”

Kris smiled sardonically. “That was the only time since he became my big brother that I kicked his ass…”

Rick interrupted, rubbing his butt, “Around the block twice, wasn’t it?”

Everyone laughed.

Bridget commented to Kris, “Damn, you must have been really mad!”

Rick smiled, like the Cheshire cat. “Or was it just her time of the month?”

All three of the women picked something up and threw it at him.

“Men!” Tony exclaimed, and they all started laughing again.

The phone rang and Bridget reached behind her to the end table, picking it up. “Hello? Oh hi… Just fine, how about you… A story… Just today… No, we were all sitting around having some pizza.” Bridget handed the phone to Kris. “It’s for you, it’s Franklin.”

Kris made a face like something she had eaten didn’t agree with her as she waved the phone away.

Bridget raised one perfectly manicured dark eyebrow at her surrogate daughter.

Kris reluctantly took the device looking very chastised. “Hey… No, just have been really busy… Fine, next time I get in at two or three in the morning, I’ll be sure and return your call…. Sorry….” She rolled her eyes, holding the phone away from her ear. “What? I’m not going to discuss that… That’s precisely why!”

Tony was trying hard not to laugh. “Safe sex?”

Kris nodded her head. “Oh there’s Paul, I’ve got to go… I don’t know… I’ll try later, bye.” Kris put the receiver down on the cradle as the sound of someone still talking could be heard.

Bridget looked sad. “You should cut him more slack; he’s just concerned.”

Kris put her head into her hands. “I know, it’s just not the type of conversation I ever really envisioned having with him, you know.”

Bridget patted her sister-in-law on the arm and looked sympathetic.

A very nervous Tony, who was playing with the hem of her shirt, said, “Mom, I wanted to apologize for earlier.”

Bridget’s face looked blank for a moment as she looked at her daughter. “Why?”

Tony still couldn’t make eye contact. “Well, it was rude.”

Bridget looked a little hurt. “That was one thing that it was.” She caught the look on Kris’ face as she continued, “It was a little surprising as well.”

Rick was shooting daggers with his eyes at Kris. “Yeah, I’ll bet you thought she was straight like the rest of us?”

Bridget looked resigned. “If Tony is gay, then so be it.”

Tony asked in a surprised voice, finally making eye contact, “It wouldn’t bother you?”

Bridget looked skeptically at them. “What’s the big deal? Did you really think that I would feel differently because it was my own daughter? How hypocritical!”

Melissa was smiling with admiration. “And very typical I’m afraid.”

Kris gave Bridget a very warm smile.

 

18

Tony took the phone away from her ear and handed it to her mom. “Yep, just a sec.”

Melissa commented as she twisted off the top to a bottle of Miller beer, “I can’t believe that this hotel doesn’t have any micro brews.”

Rick snapped his bottle cap across the room. “What’s a micro brew?”

Tony noticed that her mom looked perplexed as she hung up the phone. “Everything OK?”

Bridget’s brow was knit in concern as she stood next to the phone. “Yeah. The guy I was supposed to interview is dead.”

Tony looked a little surprised. “Wow, that’s a bummer.”

Bridget still looked very far away. “He was gunned down outside a restaurant, night before last.”

Kris took a sip of her brew. “Creepy!”

Rick’s voice held a bit of annoyance as he addressed Melissa. “So, you gonna answer my question? What’s a micro brew?”

Melissa realized that she hadn’t answered his question, and that he was being very cold. “It’s a beer that is brewed in small breweries. We must have at least a 100 of them at home.”

Rick seemed really interested. “Cool! Does this place have a beach?”

Melissa looked puzzled. “Well yeah, along both of our rivers, but no one plays volleyball or anything, and it rains there a lot!”

Tony put her feet up on the coffee table. “Rick doesn’t care about volleyball, he just wants to look at babes in bikinis!”

Kris chimed in and laughed, “Well who doesn’t?”

Bridget took a sip of her beer and replied, “Well, I don’t actually. I like a hunk in a thong.”

Melissa looked curious. “Really?”

Bridget’s whole body shivered and she looked very happy. “Oh yeah, I love to drive down to Muscle Beach and watch all those body builders...”

Rick laughed, looking surprised. “Does Franklin know?”

Bridget stated, brushing her hair away from her face with a flick of her wrist, “Oh lord, no!”

Kris chuckled. “Oh my God, here’s a thought to keep you away from sex – Franklin in a thong.”

The group was laughing so hard that Tony ended up shooting beer out her nose, which made everyone else laugh that much harder.

When the laughter started to die down, Melissa asked, “Excuse me for saying so, but it sounds like you really don’t like your husband. Why do you stay married to him?”

Bridget smiled warmly. “Oh, Franklin’s a good man, he’s kind and loving, and really good in bed.”

Kris objected, making a face, “Oh thank-you! I needed to know that.”

Bridget sounded sincere, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Kris looked ill. “I may be off sex for awhile now.”

Melissa head jerked up “What?” She looked worried.

Kris slapped her forehead and looked lovingly at Melissa. “What was I thinking?”

Rick’s brow was bunched in confusion. “There is something I’ve never been able to grasp, how did Franklin ever decide to marry you after knowing your background?”

Bridget pointed her beer bottle at Rick. “I’ve always been kind of confused by that one myself. I guess he was just so in love with me that for once he wasn’t listening to your parents in his head, and heart. He listened to himself and did what he wanted to.”

Melissa laughed. “Well how bad could your background be? I mean did you murder someone or something?”

It had grown quiet in the room. No one else was laughing when Bridget responded in a very matter-of-fact tone, “Yes, I did.”

Melissa looked around at the other faces for confirmation. Everyone looked serious. “What? You’re fucking with me, right?”

Bridget picked up another slice of pizza. “No, I wouldn’t fuck with your head. It’s true.”

Melissa looked aghast. “How, when?”

Bridget replied around a mouthful of pizza, “It’s a very long story; you don’t really want to hear it, do you?”

Kris kissed the top of Melissa’s head. “Let’s get all of our dirty laundry out in the open.”

Melissa offered, looking unsure, “You know, this could be painful; maybe she doesn’t want to dredge up the memory.”

Bridge smiled as if humoring a small child. “Oh that’s sweet of you dear, but I had seven years in a 6’x 9’ cell to get over it. To really understand you have to go back to the beginning. My mother and grandma raised me. I grew up on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, in a sod house that my grandma’s grandfather built. Grand is very traditional, very 19th century. She doesn’t speak English. She understands it, but her native language was what she spoke, and if you wanted to communicate, that’s what you spoke. She is actually my great grandma. I was born right at the end of WWII; do you know what that is?”

Bridget had Melissa’s complete and undivided attention. “Yes Ma’am.”

Bridget looked like a pleased teacher. “Very good. My parents had moved off the rez when they got married, and moved to Phoenix where all the jobs were because of the war. Everything was going great, then the war ended and the jobs began to dry up for minorities and women. My father, we were told, was killed in a traffic accident. But since he didn’t own a car, we always suspected that something more graphic happened, involving angry white men.”

Melissa was shocked. “How awful! Didn’t you go to the authorities?”

Bridget made a dismissive movement with her hand. “Honey, as a dyke, if you were harassed by the police, what would you do?”

Melissa looked thoughtful. “I see your point.”

Rick was incredulous. “Are you kidding? Does this really happen?”

Melissa looked a bit surprised and asked, “Haven’t you heard the term ‘hate crime’?”

Rick thought this was a rhetorical question. “Yeah?”

Melissa explained, “Well it means crimes that are directed at someone because of their sexual orientation, skin color, religion, handicap...

Kris interrupted, “It means that America is the land of open and subtle discrimination.”

Rick’s jaw tightened. “This is precisely why I didn’t want you to come out.”

Wanting to defuse the tension between the siblings, Bridget asked, “Do you want to hear this story or not?”

Rick apologized, in disbelief, “Sorry, I just can’t believe in this day and age that this type of thing goes on.”

Melissa tried again. “That’s because you are part of the chosen few, a white male. You will never experience discrimination.”

Rick turned his attention fully to Melissa, looking a little condescending. “This is one of those things where you bash men, right?”

Dodging his question, Melissa challenged, “If you want to experience discrimination, let’s go out together and I’ll show you what happens.”

Rick stuck out his hand looking very sure of himself. “You’re on.”

The two shook hands, both looking quite satisfied with themselves.

Bridget was looking exasperated. “Can I continue now?” As she made eye contact with each of the kids, each dropping their head and looking properly chastised, she replied, “Thank-you. Anyway my mom couldn’t get a job that would feed us kids, and there was no one to watch us when she was off at work, so she was forced to move back home to the rez. Grand’s piece of the rez is like stepping into a time capsule back 150 years. Grand’s house is a one room building, one large room, no electricity, and no running water. The closest phone was five miles away at the general store. We slept on beds made out of straw, had to haul water in from the well outside. We’d get up at 4:30 every morning and do our chores, around about dawn we’d have breakfast, then we’d have to walk the five miles to school. No school buses, no other kids’ mothers driving. We’d have to walk that five days a week in every kind of weather. When we got home from school, we’d have more chores to do, like planting or harvesting. After dinner, we’d sit around the fireplace and by the light of one candle we’d do our homework.”

In the background starting very quietly at first was humming of the national anthem, which continued to build as Bridget talked about the rez. As she finished up, Tony was pantomiming playing the violin. Kris and Rick sniffing as they turned their fists in front of their eyes looking like they were crying.

Bridget picked up a pillow off the couch and hurled it at the Musketeers. “Oh very funny!”

Kris was laughing. “Sorry! But isn’t it a kid’s job to give parents grief over that ‘I walked 300 miles to school in 90 feet of snow spiel’?”

Folding her arms across her chest and looking none too happy, Bridget asked, “Do you want to hear this story, or do you want me to put you over my knee?”

Kris instantly stopped laughing and sucked her lips into her mouth, folded her hands in her lap, trying to make herself as small and unnoticeable as possible.

Smiling in triumph, Bridget said, “Now that’s more like it. Where was I…? Ah yes, during the summer before I was a junior in high school, I met one of my friends’ older brother home for summer break. Sean Rain Cloud was going to be a senior at U of A in the fall; we saw a lot of each other that summer. Right before he went back to school we made love, and the next month I found out I was pregnant. I thought Grandma was going to skin me alive. We were married soon after in the proverbial shotgun wedding. Sean had signed up with the army so that when he graduated, he would go right to boot camp. He was assigned a post in San Francisco, and so I moved off to the White man’s world, pregnant and oh so naïve. Because Antonia here was four weeks late, she got to be born in California.

Melissa looked over at Tony smiled and commented, “what a pretty name.”

Mother and daughter exclaimed at the same time, “Thanks.” Then looked at each other, smiling.

Bridget explained, “I always liked the name Tony, but wanted her name to be a little more formal. I also never liked the way the female derivative was spelled, so I spelled Tony’s name in the masculine.”

Tony looked adamant, adding, “Good damn thing too!”

Bridget ruffled her daughter’s hair as she continued, “So there we were, one big happy family living on the base at the Presidio. A couple years passed, and Sean got a promotion and we got moved to better quarters. I got my GED and was taking an occasional college class; things were going along quite nicely – always view this as an omen.”

“My husband began to act very differently; he spent a lot of time out with the boys, and gambling. In the next year, his gambling got so bad that I had to take away his paycheck and hide it, or he would gamble it all away.”

“One night I was at home fixing dinner when he came storming in the house, drunk and looking for money. We were yelling, and he was knocking me around; I have to tell you he really scared me, so I caved and gave him the money. He left, but within a half an hour he was back, madder than hell, looking for the rest of the money. I’d given him all that I had. He knocked me around and then started threatening Tony, he backed me into the kitchen, and I grabbed the carving knife I had been using to make dinner, to protect us. Well, we struggled, and he fell on the knife, and died in my arms.”

A gasp of shock escaped from Melissa as her hand covered her mouth; a look of horror was on her face. Kris wrapped her arm tighter around her lover.

Bridget’s voice was very matter-of-fact as she continued, “The old biddy next door had called the M.P.s because we were making so much noise, so they came charging in, and as I was covered in Sean’s blood, you could say they caught me red handed. The old biddy’s view of the events that night, well it wasn’t exactly the way things happened. The military didn’t want the case on their hands, so somehow they got the state to take it, and I was convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.” She took a swig of her beer.

Melissa asked, when she got over the shock, “Why didn’t the military want to deal with the case?”

Bridget looked skeptically at the blond woman. “You have to realize, it’s 1976, and the military is becoming very unpopular, just like most of the establishment. You know what’s going on in history?”

Melissa answered, feeling like she was in a history class. “Yeah, civil rights movement, Vietnam, flower power, the aftermath of the JFK assassination.”

Bridget sounded pleased. “Exactly! You go to the head of the class – you’ve got a smart one here Kris!” And patted Kris on the knee. “As if things weren’t bad enough, Tony watched the whole thing from the doorway.” Bridget’s voice cracked. “They took her away from me and I didn’t see her again for ten years. My Grand of course didn’t have the means to do anything about getting custody of Tony – Sean’s parents didn’t want the reminder around of his murder I guess.”

Kris was wrapped up in the story, no matter how many times she had heard it. “What about your mom?”

Bridget cleared her throat. “She was remarried by then, to a white man. She’s a real disappointment to Grand. Anyway, she did what she could, but her husband didn’t see an Indian being locked away to rot, and he really didn’t want to get involved.”

Melissa, completely wrapped up in the story, asked, “Why was her marriage a real disappointment?”

Bridget took a swig of beer. “My mom was a full blooded Apache, something pretty rare, and Grand always wanted her to marry within the tribe so that her offspring would be full blooded as well. Well, Mom did that, but after my dad was killed she went and married outside her race to a White. I know this is really not what all of you want to hear, but I was raised to think that people such as yourselves, Whites, were evil and brought nothing but trouble. Looking back on my life, I would have to say that up until I met Franklin, I think that was a true way to look at the world.”

Something dawned on Kris for the first time. “So then Grand was unhappy with you marrying Franklin?”

Bridget was nodding her head. “Yes. She was disappointed. She always wanted me to come back to live on the rez. Like I said, we have a real strong bloodline and she always had dreams of one of us becoming Chief. Anyway, as I was saying, they took Tony away from me and put her in a foster home. I couldn’t even find out from the state where she was for five years.”

Melissa looked distraught. “That must have been hell for you?”

Bridget wiped her eyes as she nodded her head.

Tony took up the story, “The state’s paperwork was so screwed up they didn’t even know where I was for that long. But they were paying out benefits to the foster homes just the same. The last people, and I use that term loosely, were only taking in kids to get money from the state; they couldn’t care less what was going on with the kids. And I should know, because I was the only Indian in the household and they let me know it from day one. I stayed there for six years, and every day I had to defend myself.”

Melissa looked appalled. “You mean they beat you?”

Upending her beer, Tony corrected, “No the adults didn’t, the other kids did, but they did it with the adults looking on and not doing anything to stop it. I used to get locked in the closet, and I’d get all the shitty chores to do. Even at school, I was constantly getting in fights – none of the other foster kids would help defend me, sometimes they would help gang up on me.

“One day I was seeking refuge at the end of the playground, licking my wounds, when an old woman, a woman I had never seen before came over to the fence and started to talk to me. It was really hard to understand what she was saying, her English was so broken. But I found out that she was my grandma and wanted me to come and live with her. We climbed aboard a city bus from school, and twenty-four hours later we were walking down the dirt road to her house.”

Tony’s face brightened as she remembered, “I loved living out there with her. She taught me Apache and how to work and live off the land. I completely disregarded the White man’s world.” Tony’s face darkened.  “The foster people had told me that my mother was dead; I was very confused when Grand told me that she was alive.”

Bridget continued the tale, “After six long years of battling the system and the prison, I got a letter in the mail one day from Tony. I nearly went through the roof; I had nearly given up hope that I would ever see her again.

“I was trying to get the D.A.’s office to re-open my case. I knew that if I could get that old biddy to tell the truth this time around, I would be found guilty of manslaughter, which carried a much lower sentence. I was to have my dreams answered; within a couple of months, my case was re-opened and this time the old biddy told the truth. I was found guilty of manslaughter, and since I had just spent seven years of my life in prison, they let me go. I didn’t get a pardon, so I still have a criminal record – but I was free.”

“I had managed to get my B.A. in English while inside and had written several articles for newspapers around the state. I knew that I probably couldn’t live with Grand; the isolation alone was enough to drive you crazy.” She raised an eyebrow and smiled crookedly. “Isolation was something I was pretty tired of at that point. But I had to see Tony, so I got on a bus and headed south.

Bridget was a little choked up, “When I saw her she was all grown up; she had gone total native. Much more than I had ever been. She only spoke Apache and occasionally Spanish; it was years before I heard her speak English again.”

Tony looked over at her mom. “I was oh so bitter, and perfectly happy to be in the middle of the 1800s. For the first time in my memory, someone loved me and cared for me. Grand was a kick, and we got along great. Suddenly there was this woman there, whom I didn’t remember, saying she was my mother. It was hard going for a couple of months while we got to know each other again.”

Bridget sounded frustrated, “Here I was, around your ages, and an instant mother of a teenager. I had no experience at this. I hadn’t been around anyone young in over seven years; it was really hard. I wondered a couple of times why I didn’t just bail. But damn it, this kid was mine, and I did love her, and I wanted to be part of her life.”

Bridget took Tony’s hand and, smiling, looked into her eyes. “We spent the next year living with Grand. I was making a good living as a freelance writer, not an easy task when you have no phone or electricity. I could see that I was going to have to go back to the world, and that also meant Tony was going to have to come with me as well. This was going to be a fight all the way. I had always felt comfortable in California, so we moved to L.A.”

Tony’s tone matched her unhappy face. “Talk about culture shock! I hated it; too damn many White people, too crowded. I had no animals to care for, and no place to be alone to feel the wind on my face, no land to work – it was awful!”

Bridget brushed her dark locks off of her face. “We were having some serious communications problems and I thought we were going to have to move back to Grand’s house. Every time I would get Tony in school, she would get in so many fights that they would expel her. I was running out of schools!

“Then I met Franklin; I was doing a story on his company for the Sunday supplement. I liked him immediately, and I must say that he was quite taken with me.” She smiled a shit-eating grin. “He had no problem becoming an instant dad either, since he loves kids. Although the fact that Tony looked and acted like a refugee from an old western made him think a little longer about it.” Bridget was still smiling as she ruffled Tony’s hair.

Tony reached over and ruffled her mom’s hair right back, wearing her own shit-eating grin. Then in a more serious tone, she picked up the story, “I couldn’t believe she was marrying this White man!” Looking her mom in the eye. “I was so mad at you for such a long time. Then you introduced me to these two.” Tony pointed at Kris and Rick, who looked surprised and innocent at the same time. “Great! Two gringos to spend time with, that’s just what I needed! But the niña was very nice and spoke Spanish, a real point in her favor.” Tony smiled warmly at Kris; turning, she scowled at Rick. “The niño was like a wolf; I had had to deal with them before, so I just stayed on my guard.”

Bridget looked so relieved. “You can imagine how relieved I was when Tony and Kris hit it off. I instantly asked Kris to tutor Tony and bring her back into the 20th century.”

Kris smiled as she took up the story, “I didn’t mind; she was nice. Her fashion sense was a little strange, but nice, and wow, talk about gorgeous. Even though she was withdrawn, angry and hurt, as well as assertive and sure of herself, I really liked that; it was something I wished I could have been. I was in high school and Tony was in junior high with Rick. Even though the Cutlers Jr….”

Melissa broke in, looking a bit perplexed, “Who?”

Rick explained, “The Cutlers Jr. was what we called their family… Bridget, Tony and Franklin.”

Kris could tell that Melissa still wasn’t getting it. “Since we all had the same last name, it was easier to call their family that than to say, ‘Bridget, Franklin and Tony’. Make sense?”

Melissa smiled. “Yes, it makes perfect sense. I think I’ll try that on my brothers.”

Kris kissed her lover’s cheek and then continued, “Anyway, they didn’t live in our neighborhood, and Franklin arranged it with me that I would drive the five miles over to his house every day and pick Tony up and take her to school, taking her home after as well. No problem; it gave me an excuse to drive! This relationship was working out better and better all the time!” Kris was smiling mischievously, and Bridget tossed a pillow at her, which she deflected easily, laughing.

Tony smiled at Rick. “I was going to the same school as Rick, as they tested me to place me to figure out what grade I was supposed to be in. But for the first time in my life, when someone picked on me, I had someone on my side.”

Rick looked the proverbial peacock. “I was so very puffed up telling all my friends that you were my niece, I couldn’t very well stand by and let someone wale on you.”

Kris added, “I wouldn’t stand for it either. There was no reason to let those narrow-minded idiots fuck you up. That’s how come we started getting called the Three Musketeers. When you messed with one of us, you had all three of us to deal with.”

Tony continued the story, “It was a real ego boost to have all of this support. Ah, but this was an omen – about six months later Kris was involved in the ‘Jenny incident’, and our worlds were blown apart.” Tony looked over at Kris and sighed. “Kris was, well, in a word, a mess. And it definitely had the trickle down effect. I was back in the pattern I had been when I first met Kris and Rick; I was very homesick for Grand and Arizona. I begged my mom to let me go back.”

Bridget looked sad; her voice was full of frustration. “Tony had come so far, I didn’t want her to slide right back into the comfortable old ways. With Kris… under house arrest, the tutoring had stopped and Forrest was treating Rick like he was grounded indefinitely. Tony was cut off from her connection to the 20th century; the fights both at school and home escalated, her grades were in the toilet. I felt I was losing my tenuous hold on her. Kris seemed to be the bridge between losing Tony forever or having her with me.” Bridget stopped; her eyes were shimmering as if she were about to cry as she looked intently at Kris.

Kris smiled knowingly, answering the unspoken question, “She knows…”

Rick seemed astounded as he pointed to Melissa. “You told her! Not everything?”

Melissa looked lovingly at her lover, smiling warmly, and squeezed their joined hands.

Kris acknowledged the smile and returned the loving look. Turning back to her brother, she nodded her head yes. “Yes, everything.”

They all looked back and forth from Kris to Melissa, their amazement evident.

Bridget gave her sister-in-law a smile of approval as she continued, “Jolly good! Now where was I…?” Her tone was filled with bitterness. “Oh yes. I bucked the family sentiments; after all, this situation concerned my daughter as well. I couldn’t stand by and watched while they banished this girl out of our lives, probably forever. Franklin and I took Kris in.”

Kris looked in awe at the older woman. “It was that easy, to take in this trouble maker? I mean, I was in juvy… and everything.”

Bridget looked fondly at her sister-in-law. “Juvy? I was in prison. It was basically an easy decision for both of us. After having had Tony in a foster home all that time, and knowing what hell it had inflicted on her, neither I nor your brother could see that any good would come of having you sent to one of those places after what had just happened to you.”

Kris’ eyes glistened. “I don’t know if I can ever say this enough, but thank you very much for taking responsibility for me, and taking me into your home.”

Bridget reached over and patted Kris on the thigh, smiling. “Don’t mention it…”

Kris interrupted, “But you saved my life.”

Bridget was chuckling. “Yes, that’s probably true. By saving you, I saved Tony; sounds shitty, but that was my main goal.” Bridget wore a devilish smile. “Besides, I knew it would piss off your parents. And it was the only way at the time that I could think of to get back at them without being arrested.”

Rick was laughing. “What does that mean?”

Bridget’s tone was filled with venom. “That son-of-a-bitch was so concerned about his image that he never once considered what the consequences of his actions would be.”

Tony looked a little surprised at the change in her mom’s demeanor.

Rick snorted, sounding disgusted. “But that was Dad; shoot first and ask questions later. Thirty years of jar-head training can’t be overlooked.”

Anger and resentment colored Kris’ tone, “That’s a good excuse for Cap’n Overreacted but what was Angie’s excuse? I mean she was a devout Catholic; she should have been happy to go to confession and have my sins washed off of her.”

Bridget took a deep breath. “That’s what I mean; your parents should have considered what was going on with you, not themselves first.” She couldn’t help herself. “Assholes.”

Tony was chuckling. “Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel!”

With a far away look in her eyes Kris stated, “For a long time I felt that the meltdown of the family was my fault.” Her eyes focused, and her tone was filled with sarcastic humor, “But years of expensive therapy cured me of that one!”

Bridget was looking down at her hands, her tone serious. “I don’t think I really had any idea what was going on inside your head. I was concerned with the tangible aspects of your attack…”

Kris was smiling sadly as she interrupted, “I was one fucked up kid!”

Tony took a long pull on her beer. “You weren’t the only one. Everyone one of us suffered from that time.”

Rick sounded angry as he talked with his beer bottle, “At least you two didn’t have to live for a year in the house of shame.” He looked over at Kris. “I missed you so much and had really no idea what had happened to you until I spoke with Franklin. If I even mentioned your name the walls came tumbling down. They threw out all of your stuff, sold your Willys, erased every trace of you.”

Kris’ voice was reserved. “I don’t know if I ever thanked you for saving what you could of my stuff – and getting Franklin to buy my car was brilliant.”

Rick wore a pleased smile, “I knew it would kill you to loose your Willys. I talked to a buddy of mine and convinced him to do the deed. Franklin gave me the money, I gave it to my bud, and bingo your car stayed in the family.” He laughed, I remember that time we went over to the Cutlers Jr. when you were still in juvy and Dad saw your Willys parked in the garage – I thought he was going to burst that vein in his neck.”

Bridget was laughing. “I know the one! That was the true beginning of our fall out with them.”

Kris’ voice was just above a whisper as she addressed her brother, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears, “It tore at my heart to think of you there alone with them.” A tear escaped down her cheek, which she swiped at savagely as she continued, “Those people should have had to have a license to reproduce.”

Rick moved so he could squeeze his sister’s hand. “I lived.” He turned serious and a little sad. “The worst part of that time was worrying about what was happening to you.”

Kris threw her arms around him and hugged him close.

He cleared his throat, and smirked at Bridget. “I was just really glad you guys helped me get emancipated.” Bridget smiled warmly. “Well, I felt we should really go down in flames in a big way, you know? I knew Kris wouldn’t be happy without Rick and Rick without Kris. If Kris wasn’t happy, then Tony wouldn’t be happy – selfish really.” She shivered, “I just couldn’t see you living in that house with those people anymore. It was obvious that they had no use for either one of you kids anymore.” She slammed her fist down on to the couch cushions. “Why the fuck do people want to have kids just to have them as status symbols?”

Rick looked like a shark smiling as he spoke, “I’ve got a wonderful, Grinchy idea. Why don’t we go over to their house right now and kick the crap out of them!”

Bridget gave Rick a very stern look as she took his beer away from him. “Down Fido – do you want to be spending time behind bars?”

Tony said flippantly, “Then I’d bee the only one that hasn’t spent time behind them in this family.”

Kris threw a pillow at her sister and in a serious tone said, “That’s not even something to joke about.”

Bridget smirked. “I think Kris is finally getting her sweet revenge on the Cutlers by coming out publicly.”

Kris chuckled. “Yeah, I’m sure they’re shitting a brick over that one.”

The confusion in Melissa’s tone was evident. “But I thought they had disowned you?”

Getting up and moving to the small fridge, Kris was retrieving more beers. “True. But all of their family still know who I am – and Cap’n & Mrs. Overreaction know that, so they’re probably about to die of shame about now!”

Bridget high-fived her sister-in-law, as everyone in the room began to laugh.

As the laughter began to die down, Tony looked quite amused. “Mom, do you remember the look on Kris’ face when we got to Grand’s with her?”

Laughing a deep belly laugh, Bridget pointed at Kris, and through her mirth, replied, “Oh my God, I thought you were going to shit a brick of your own.”

Passing out the beers and then sitting down next to the blond, Kris looked less than pleased. “Oh yeah, that was funny. I still owe you for that one…”

Bridget was wiping the tears from her eyes, “It’s your own fault!” She pointed a finger accusingly at the younger woman, a serous tone under the gentle ribbing. “What were you thinking, bringing drugs into my house?”

A shrug and a self-deprecating smile accompanied Kris’ reply, “As was stated, I was pretty fucked up. It was the only way I could find at the time to cope with daily life.”

Bridget shook her head in astonishment. “Did it occur to you that there were children around?”

Kris became defensive. “Don’t you think I knew that? Did it occur to you that maybe it was killing me to be a junkie in front of them?” She ran her hand through her hair. “I waffled back and forth between wanting to live permanently in the fetal position and suicide.” She met the gaze of Tony, Bridget and Rick. “All of you assumed that when I came home, that everything would go back to the way it was, but I wasn’t the same person…”

Melissa squeezed her lover’s hand and tried to get her to calm down. “Kris, honey…”

Putting her hand out in a stopping gesture, Bridget interrupted, “No it’s alright.”

Kris jumped to her feet, looking very much like a caged animal. “Alright? That is not a word I would use to describe me, or that time. You all wanted me to be the perfect girl next door, but you had overlooked that she had been killed in juvy! The monster that I’d become, that was living amongst you, was becoming stronger, and keeping it at bay took more drugs and more alcohol all the time…” Her voice trailed off.

Speaking very quietly, Tony asked, “Why didn’t you talk to me about any of this? I could have helped…”

Kris barked with laughter. “Discuss all of the evil that was inside me with you? I would have tainted you, and then you would have been as fucked up as I was. I wouldn’t have been any different than my parents – guilty of killing your innocence.” She said the world “parents” as if it left a bad taste in her mouth.

Tony looked astounded, her mouth literally hanging open. “You don’t seriously feel that way?”

Kris sort of stopped. Her right hand was resting on the back of her neck. The trapped look faded out of her eyes. Her voice softened as she said, “I did then, yeah.”

Looking down at his feet, the amazement was clear in Rick’s voice. “Fuck, no wonder you wouldn’t spend any time with us.” He looked up and met his sister’s gaze. “Why didn’t you at least talk to Bridget or Franklin?”

Kris shrugged. “Couldn’t. Adults had gotten me in that situation, so I couldn’t trust ’em.” She looked like the Wicked Witch, as if she melted down into a chair.

Melissa got up and went to the troubled woman. Kneeling in front of the seated woman, she held her lover’s hand and stroked her dark hair offering quiet support.

Looking very depressed, Bridget said, almost to herself, “I should have gotten you to Grand’s sooner.”

Kris laughed, and wiped the tears out of her eyes. “Yeah, that was a great place for someone with multiple substance addictions!” She smiled warmly at the older woman. “Were you trying to kill me or something?” She leaned over and kissed Melissa and pulled her into the chair with herself.

Looking a little emotional herself, Bridget replied, “I knew you were drinking, but since the whole family was getting along, I just turned a blind eye to it.” She snorted. “I thought you’d quit on your own. When I found you passed out on the front lawn that night, I couldn’t ignore your addiction any longer.” Looking very uncomfortable, she continued, “I had no idea how hooked you really were until your suicide attempt.” Meeting the younger woman’s gaze. “You scared the hell out of me!” Flipping her dark locks over her shoulder and clearing her throat, she continued, “I thought the perfect place to get you sober would be Grand’s. No temptations, and no place to score...”

Staring off into space, and almost to herself, Tony said, “No electricity.” She suddenly looked up, meeting Kris’ amused gaze. Tony looked panicked. “I didn’t say that out loud, did I?”

Kris was smiling broadly, shaking her head yes. “Busted, Brat.”

Bridget looked relieved. “Yeah, that was another reason.”

Dropping her feet off the coffee table and sitting up straighter, Tony challenged lightheartedly, “Brat! Who are you calling a brat, Tia?”

Kris looked as if she were humoring her niece. “OK, Sobrinita, you know I hate being called Auntie!”

Tony stuck out her tongue. “Your own fault.”

Sounding very authoritative, Rick asked, “Am I going to have to separate you two?”

The two women simultaneously picked up pillows and pelted him with them.

Looking indignant, Rick cried, “Hey!” Then turning his attention to Bridget, pleaded, “They’re picking on me!”

Looking very cynical, Bridget replied, “Yeah, riiiiiiiiiight.”

Kris looked very serious as she stated, “I’m really sorry that I scared you; I scared myself. But what you didn’t know was that in addition to my drinking, I was also taking downers that I was buying on the streets with money I was getting for doing kids’ homework. My shrink had me on sleeping pills which weren’t doing much good, and I was taking up to four a night to get only a couple of hours of sleep. The day you found me on the lawn, my shrink had cut me off, saying she thought I was getting too dependent.” She laughed. “If she had only known. The next morning I was substance free, and not feeling very good; I was trying to convince you that your decision to cut me off was not in my best interest, and we had that big fight and then you left.” Kris took a deep breath and then ran her hand through her hair. “I saw Tony and Franklin interacting like the perfect family, and realized that was never going to be me, and that was it.”

The beat up brown Wagoneer, pulled up in front of weathered wooden structure that looked as if a strong sneeze would knock it down. They had been traveling since early that morning. Kris had been feeling ill from withdrawal, and was grumpy as she sat in the back seat alone.

They had traveled straight through, except for gas stops, and only eating food to go.

The last twenty miles had been over questionable roads, most of which could have been open fields as far as Kris could tell. With bone jarring potholes, washboard surfaces, and the occasional farm animal avoidance.

The first few hours of the trip had been in silence, broken only by the staticy music on their AM radio, and the hum of the tires.

Kris had been lying down napping when the Wagoneer came to a stop and the sound of the engine died away. The dust settled around them as Kris sat up and looked out the car window. A scrawny mongrel dog began to bark at them from what she guessed was the yard. The house didn’t look much bigger than the living room back home. The only spot of color for miles was the wildflowers that randomly lined the octagonal sides of the house. Everything was dry and looked to be a long way from the last rain. Smoke was curling out of the center of the roof. Twilight was setting on the land, making all the edges soft and creating long shadows, as a faint yellow glow spilled out of one of the two windows. Tony hopped out and began helping her mother to unload the car. Kris sat staring at her surroundings, wondering what she had gotten herself into.

Tony called to Kris from the back of the car, “Last stop, everybody out.” She had been speaking nothing but Spanish for the last several hours. Just one more annoyance in a day filled with them for Kris.

It took Kris’ mind awhile to process this change and under her breath she responded, “I was afraid of that,” she grumbled in English as she wearily climbed down out of the car.

They gathered their stuff and went up to the door. A very old woman greeted them, throwing her arms around Tony and began speaking some language that Kris had never heard.

Tony made the introductions in Spanish. “Grand, this is my Aunt – Kris Cutler.” The older woman reached out and took Kris’s hand in her own knurled hand. It was very brown, like the rest of her, wrinkled and covered with calluses and felt sort of like leather. Her face was deeply etched with lines, her dark eyes were bright and held a wisdom and pain. She was about Kris’ height, and fairly spry, with gray hair sprinkled with black that she wore in a long braid down her back. Her smile was warm. Although she couldn’t understand a single word the woman said, Kris felt at ease and welcomed.

Kris began to respond in English, “It’s very nice….

Tony interrupted, whispering in Kris’ ear, “Ah we only speak Spanish and Apache here.” Tony stepped back and met her Aunt’s gaze. “House rules.”

Kris took a deep breath. ‘This is going to be a long visit’. She again responded to the older woman, this time in Spanish. “It’s very nice to meet you… ah… Grand?” She looked to Tony at a loss as to what to call the woman.

Tony smiled and gave a slight nod of approval.

Of course Kris was sure the woman couldn’t understand a thing she said anyway.

The house, it was more like a shanty, was only one large room. One side was the combination kitchen, pantry, dining/living room. The other was the bedroom, complete with three beds made from rope and rough-hewn lumber. The floors were hard packed dirt. As Kris put her stuff down on one of the beds, her heart sank as she realized there was no electricity or indoor plumbing. But then Bridget had said it was basic. Kris took that to mean that they didn’t have a swimming pool, central air and a maid.

They all went out to unload the rest of the stuff from the car. Bridget had stocked them up with stuff for Grand and their stay there. Kris thought the 50-pound bags of flour, sugar and beans were heavy that morning but now they felt like lead. As she helped carry the last bag inside, she hadn’t realized she was hungry, but her stomach began to rumble as a glorious scent teased her nose.

The table was made from rough-hewn wood, and set for four. In the center of the hogan was the fire. The kitchen consisted of shelves that hung on one of the walls, making up the pantry. Besides the eating table, there was a sideboard of sorts that looked as if most of the meal prep was done on it. Besides the light from the fire, a Coleman type lantern provided a yellow light. Grand made insistent gestures that Kris should sit down.

The food, Kris was never really sure what it was, except it was hot, spicy and very delicious, nonetheless she had never tasted anything as good before. She finished eating first, and the other women talked in the unknown language. Kris could feel herself starting to drift off to sleep. She heard Tony ask her about being sleepy, and then she found herself on one of the cots and Tony was helping her off with her shoes. Kris was asleep before she even hit the pillow.

The sleeping arrangements consisted of everyone against one wall opposite the pantry in the hogan. The beds were really cots made of hand hewn wood, rope for the springs, and straw stuffed mattresses. Kris was surprised at how comfortable they were. Of course being tucked into a sleeping bag helped. In traditional Indian fashion, Tony and Bridget shared a bed, while Kris and Grand took up the remaining beds.

The mattresses tended to be noisy, crinkling loudly every time someone moved. Kris was feeling very insecure about sleeping with everyone, giving her feelings of being back in juvy. Each time someone moved, she would awake, ready to defend herself from the unseen attack.

After about an hour, everyone fell into a deep sleep to be awakened by Kris screaming in utter terror.

The three women sat up in bed, startled as Kris’ scream echoed and died.

Grand reached over and lit the old beat up lantern by her bed, giving a yellow glow to the room.

Bridget sat up in her bed breathing hard and trying to figure out what had happened. Glancing around the room, and doing a quick head count of all the occupants, she relaxed a little when everyone was accounted for. Then she noticed Kris was breathing as if she had run a ten mile race, her hair was glued to her head, and she was covered in sweat. Her body was coiled as if to ward off an unseen attack, and her eyes nervously darted about the room. “Kris, are you all right?”

Tony noticed her aunt at about the same time, as she too was sitting up trying to figure out what had awakened her. “Jesus Kris. What is it?” Tony wildly searched the room for intruders.

Grand spoke to Bridget in the Apache tongue. “Gringa, has terrors that awaken her.”

Bridget looked over at Kris. “Was it a nightmare?”

Kris nodded yes, as she took a deep breath, and ran her hand through her hair.

Tony looked surprised at her aunt. “The same dream?”

Again Kris nodded yes.

Tony, no stranger to nightmares, sympathized with Kris completely.

Bridget tilted her head as she looked at her sister-in-law. “Not the same dream you were suffering from when we first brought you home?” ‘I thought that talking with the psychiatrist would have helped her come to terms with the nightmares. Maybe those visits aren’t doing her as much good as I thought’. “I guess we can all go back to sleep; show’s over.”

Grand put out the light as everyone lay back down on their cots.

Kris lay on her back, listening to the others until they fell asleep. From long practice, she knew that sleep for her was not to come again this night. After everyone was asleep, she sat up in her bed. She pulled her legs up in front of her, wrapping her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. She wondered how many hours until sunup? She sat like that, staring into the darkness for hours, until Grand got up to start a new day.

Grand sat up in bed and lit the beat up lantern emitting its harsh yellow light. She fully expected to see the Gringa sitting at the table. What she wasn’t expecting was the haunted almost evil stare she got when she met the young girl’s gaze. It was so foreign it stopped her in her tracks. Clearing her throat, the old woman asked, “Did you no sleep?”

For a moment the old woman thought the Gringa wasn’t going to answer her question. After a long pause of several seconds, Kris finally replied, “No, sleep is my enemy.”

Grand had been around a long time and had seen many things, and not much surprised her anymore, and until she met this Gringa not much scared her either. But there was something about this girl that was very strange. At first she had thought that it was because she was a White, but it was more than that, and a cold shiver ran up her spine.

The three women exited the earthen hut. Kris blinked her eyes a couple of times before speaking up. “Hey! It’s the middle of the night.”

Bridget turned. “No, it’s right before dawn.”

Kris turned to head back to the hut. “Like in the morning? Shit, I’m going back to bed!”

Tony put an arm across her path; “We have too much to do for you to go back to bed.”

Kris was starting to get pissed off. “Fine! Just let me go to the bathroom.”

Indicating the small building off to their right with her head, Tony replied, “Fine, it’s over there.”

Kris looked at it in silence for a moment before turning back to the women. “That isn’t what I think it is, is it?”

Bridget took a flashlight and opened the door as she swept the light inside. “Well as long as you don’t think it’s an outhouse, then yep.” She struck a match and lit a candle on the inside. “Helps keep away the nasties.”

Kris was holding her head with both hands. “You are fucking kidding me, right?”

Both women were looking at her, smiling and shaking their heads no.

Kris grudgingly walked toward the building. Then she abruptly stopped. “What are nasties?” She wiped the air with her hand back and forth. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”

After Kris closed the door, Tony turned to her mother and, in Apache, said, “You know, I’m not sure this was such a good idea after all.”

Kris sipped her beer. “I can’t even have a cup of tea. Later I’m told. Later is after the sun comes up and we’ve collected eggs, milked goats and the cow, and fed and watered all the other animals! After breakfast, it’s off to slop the hogs, and muck the stalls in the barn. Let me assure you that none of this is easy or fun, by any means. After lunch, back to work and time to go to the fields for some tilling. The only way I get out of that is because the sun is going down, and it’s time for dinner. I think, didn’t I fall asleep during dinner? Even with all of that, I still only got a few hours sleep that night.”

Tony leveled her gaze at Kris. “All of us got little sleep that night.” Her jaw muscles clenched and unclenched. “I still can’t go into Grand’s barn without seeing you swing at the end of that rope.”

Kris winced. “Sorry about that.”

The room fell silent as everyone considered all that had been said.

Bridget broke the silence, sensing that a change of subject was in order. “So, you all have the day off in this splendid city, what plans do you have?”

Rick came back to reality. “Tess and I are going to the movies.”

Kris’ eyebrow arched up in surprise, but she didn’t have time to deal with that right now.

Bridget smiled at Tony. “What do you say kiddo, shopping? Ben and Jerry’s?”

Tony looked like she had swallowed a bug. “Ah… OK, but Paige is taking me out to dinner.”

Bridget’s eyebrows rose as she said the last word. “Fair enough, I think that will give us some time to talk.”

Tony swallowed hard and tried to become one with the couch.

Rick smirked in Kris’ and Melissa’s direction. “No need to ask you two.”

Kris got to her feet. “Fat lot you know!” She kissed Melissa’s hand as it was entwined with hers. “I’m not staying in here all day!”

Melissa looked on in surprise.

Tony’s eyes danced as her full lips curved into a slight smile. “I can never figure out how you get cabin fever before me.”

Bridget ordered, as she got up and headed for the door, “Well good, glad that’s all settled. Kris, come over to my room and help me move my suitcase.”

Bridget looked quite capable of moving a suitcase, but Melissa shrugged and stepped forward. “I’ll take care of it…”

Bridget cut Melissa off. “No dear, I want to talk to Kris alone.”

As the two women stepped out into the hall, Bridget wasted no time. “Kris, how are you doing?”

Kris shrugged, “Fine.”

Bridget narrowed her eyes and looked at her sister-in-law critically. “That was a big step to take, emotionally, professionally; you really opened yourself up.”

Kris nervously ran her hand through her hand, as they moved to the older woman’s door. “Oh yeah, and don’t I know it!”

Bridget put her hand on Kris’ shoulder. “So besides Franklin discussing safe sex with you, how are things going with this?”

Looking up into the gentle dark eyes, Kris replied, “Well, better everyday. At first Rick was really angry with me. But everyone else has been real supportive.”

Bridget cocked her head. “Rick wasn’t supportive?” She looked speculative. “Christ, you and Rick just got things patched up from when you were in high school…”

Kris held her hands out in front of her, asking a question, “How can this get that bad? I mean, I’m over 21, don’t live at home any more…”

Bridget looked very serious. “…All of that is true, but this can fuck with your career. There are people out there worse than Forrest, hard as that is to believe… some of them may want to kill you for this. Are you prepared for that?”

Kris looked determined. “I’m ready for bad press, and crowds filled with nasty people. I expect our popularity to drop for awhile.”

“This is the 21st century, and you’re in a rock band; none of your fans really gives a rat’s ass. But all of those red neck parents care, and there’ll be a backlash from that. But you’re not the first, so the precedent has been set…”

“…I told Paul to get a hold of Melissa Etheridge’s publicist.”

“Good, you’re heading in the right direction.”

“I been getting a shit load of…”

Bridget interrupted, sounding like a grandmother, “…Don’t swear dear, it’s not lady like.”

Kris had to wipe the smirk off her face. “Ah yeah, anyway I’ve gotten a lot of positive messages and telegrams from other gay celebs. All the talk shows want me to come on…”

“…I would hold off on that one for awhile. What else?”

“The gay magazines want me to be on all of their covers…”

Bridget’s back was against the hallway wall, her right leg raised with her foot resting against the wall. “…That sounds positive.” She stroked her chin and was deep in thought as she continued, “I would set those up. Pick the one you think has the biggest readership; go with that one first. Get them to come and do the interview before the end of the month. Then do a couple others, and then stop for a while. Do a couple of talk shows. You don’t want too much saturation.” She took a step closer to Kris, and in a conspiratorial tone asked, “Hey, what’s up with this Melissa?”

Kris smiled. Her whole face transformed into sunlight. “We met last month. I think it might be love at first sight!”

Bridget looked genuinely surprised. “Really?! Well just take it slow. How long is she going to be around?”

Kris looked as though a cloud passed over her face. “A couple more days, then she has to go back to work.”

Bridget’s eyebrow was raised in question. “Really? She didn’t give up her life to be with you indefinitely?” She smiled as she fake punched Kris in the shoulder. “She sounds like she has her head on straight. Don’t let this one slip away.”

The two women laughed.

Bridget became very serious. “Kris?”

Kris looked up expectantly. “Yes?”

Bridget looked stern, and in her best mother’s voice asked, “Where do you get off taking my little girl to a gay bar?”

Kris looked like she was being punished. “Ma’am? It was her idea – honest, ask her!” Then she took up a defensive posture. “What’s so bad about that?” Her chin was jutting out in challenge.

“Putting ideas in her head.”

Kris looked surprised. “Honey, the ideas were already there; I had nothing to do with it!”

Bridget looked as surprised as she sounded, “Really? I had no idea!”

“None of us did, either!”

Bridget opened the door and stepped inside her room. “Well you need to get back to your guest.”

 

19

Kris said, looking at Melissa, “A whole day alone together! The stars must be aligned right.” The sun was shining off her lover’s hair, picking up little red and brown highlights.

Melissa kicked a stone out of her path. “Does this happen very often?”

“Once in a blue moon Lissa. Do you mind if I call you Lissa?”

She turned her head to the side and smiled up at her lover. “No, I like the way it sounds when you say it.”

Kris explained as they walked along the lake, “The worst part about these situations is that even though we’re free for the day, we aren’t really.” She was wearing her disguise – a Dodger’s baseball cap and dark sunglasses, black overcoat. “Although I must say that Rita is much better than most. She’s really keeping her distance and being quite discrete. As well as keeping those nasty hounds off our tail!”

Melissa asked, walking very close to Kris, “I suppose that we are being photographed right now?”

A slight breeze blew off the lake, chilling the air, reminding you that it wasn’t as pleasant as it looked.

Kris stopped and looked back toward the parking lot. “Yep, there’s a couple not far from the limo.” She turned and looked back the way they were walking, “See that glint up ahead?”

Melissa squinted to see through the spray from the waves off the lake. “Yeah, more way up there?”

Kris moved a stray lock of blond hair from Melissa’s face. “Don’t worry, Rita will keep them at a safe distance.”

Melissa called out as she stretched her whole body, “God, what a day! Isn’t that sun great?” She bent down and picked up some rocks and began to throw them into the water. Being careful not to get splashed.

Kris watched the blond woman play and it made her smile. Of course just being around Lissa made her smile. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this good.

Melissa threw a couple of stones into the pounding surf. “Did you always want to be a rock star?”

Kris laughed, and jumped out of the way of wave spray crashing over the concrete barrier. “No, not by a long shot.”

Melissa regarded her. “What’s so funny about that?”

Kris was still chuckling. “As you know Forrest was a career Marine; he really wanted Franklin to follow in his footsteps, and Franklin had decided on the Air Force and everything was set, but he failed the physical – inner ear problems. So of course the gauntlet fell onto Rick’s shoulders, and when I was in my second year of junior high we went back east to check out military school for him. When he found out what Forrest had planned, he went ballistic and told Forrest in not so many words that he was not some tin soldier. Second son, last hope for Forrest to have his footsteps filled.” Kris stopped talking and looked out over the rough water. The expression on her face was one of sorrow and wonder.

Melissa stopped throwing her stones and asked, “So what happened?”

Kris was wearing a half smile. “I had always idolized my father and had toyed with the idea of going into the military. It hurt that he never considered me. But he was very happy when he heard what my intentions were. I was put on a waiting list, but we had three months for me to meet the physical qualifica­tions. So my da… Forrest would wake me up every morning at oh five hundred and we would go run five miles.”

Melissa looked aghast. “Oh my God! Was this a punishment?”

Kris picked up a stone and tossed it into the waves, chuckling. “No. He was used to it from thirty years in the military, and it was something I needed to get used to. It was something that just the two of us did. Anyway, about two weeks into my sophomore year we got word that I had been accepted, and that I could start the military school after the winter break.”

Melissa had completely forgotten about the rocks and was listening whole-heartedly to the tale. “You were really going to go through with it?”

Kris looked over at her, looking a bit surprised. “Oh yeah. But then the ‘Jenny-Incident’ happened. And the rest as they say is history.

Melissa was awestruck. “Christ! You could have been career military.” Melissa turned and looked at Kris. “We would never have met.”

Kris smiled at her and brushed Melissa’s hair off her face. “It would have been entirely possible. I think my soul would have kept me searching for you though.” She leaned over and lightly kissed the soft lips. It was a chaste kiss as kisses go, but the intention was within. Kris stood next to her lover; she sensed a subject change was in order. “Do you still live with your parents?”

Melissa stood looking at Kris, her face obscured by blond locks. She took her whole hand and scooped the hair  back. “No way! I haven’t lived there since I graduated from college. I own my own home. It’s not a palace like you probably live in though. It’s just a small three bedroom place with a big yard that I garden in.”

“I don’t live in a palace. Tony and Rick and I bought a small place on the beach. It only has four bedrooms. The ground floor is a recording studio, but I think it’s only got about thirty-five hundred square feet.”

Melissa was chuckling, “No, that’s not the Taj Mahal, but to me it’s a palace.”

They started to walk again, and Kris replied, “My room faces the beach, so when I wake up in the morning, I can look right out at the sand and watch the waves crash.”

They walked slowly along beside each other. Melissa asked, “Beach? Where’s home?”

Kris sounded a bit proud. “L.A. – the city, thirteen million stories in the naked city.”

Melissa stopped walking and regarding the dark haired woman next to her. “I didn’t know that.”

Kris joked and started walking again, “What, that there are 13 million people there?”

Melissa sounded far away. “No, that you’re from L.A.”

Kris was feeling very nervous. “You sound very surprised. Is there a problem?”

Melissa confessed, looking a little sheepish, “Well to be honest, I’ve always thought that anyone from there would be superficial and stuck up.”

Kris’ neck suddenly looked like it was made of springs as her head began to wobble from side to side. She flicked her hair away from her face with the backs of her hands. Her voice had risen an octave. “Like, Oh my God!!” She smiled devilishly at Melissa. Her voice and manner­isms retuned to normal. “Was that what you were thinking?”

Melissa covered her face with her hands, feeling embarrassed.

Kris smiled, putting her arm around Melissa’s shoulders. “I’m glad that I’ve disappointed you.” She chuckled. “Besides, I’m not from the Valley.”

Melissa put her arm around Kris’ waist and hugged her. “Not half as much as me!”

They walked along in silence for a moment.

“When I wake up in the morning, I look out in my backyard and see the evergreen lined space with lots of birds flying around. Depending on the season, I might see lots of flowers or this time of year things are starting to go dormant.”

Kris sounded wistful, her face turned toward the water, “It must be a nice feeling to look around and know that everything you see is yours and yours alone.”

Melissa smiled, the pride evident in her voice. “Yeah, it gives me a real feeling of accomplish­ment.”

“But don’t you get lonely, being by yourself?”

Melissa thought about that for a moment. “Yeah, sometimes, I get very lonely. I never realized until my brother moved in, that someone could be lonely and still be surrounded by people.” She suddenly changed the subject. “Hey, can I ask you something personal?”

Kris smiled. “Sure, I told you I have nothing to hide from you.”

“Don’t you get tired of being around Tony and Rick all the time? I would have killed my siblings long ago if I had to spend every waking moment with them.”

Kris rolled her eyes. “Sometimes they can be such pests. Yes. Usually we don’t interact this much. We are all off in our own little worlds. When the tour ends, Tony will return to Grand’s in Arizona, Rick will be off in his sailboat, and I’ll be home reveling in the peace and quiet.”

Melissa was picking her words very carefully. “Does your family live close by?” She held her breath, hoping that this wouldn’t push Kris’ buttons.

Kris looked at her for a moment, and then answered, “Well sort of. Nothing in Southern California is close by anything else. Bridget and Franklin live in a suburb of L.A. called Inglewood. It’s inland and south from where we live; it’s not too far from Disneyland. They are about an hour’s drive from us. How about you?”

“Yeah. They live across town from me, maybe twenty minutes.”

Kris was astounded. “Across town is twenty minutes away! How big is this place anyway?”

“Around a million people I guess.”

Kris was still amazed. “I think that is the population of the freeways in L.A.!”

“Do you really like living in a place that has so many people in it?”

“I don’t really live there; I grew up there mostly. Now, I’m a visitor for a few months every year.”

Melissa regarded the dark haired woman. “Are you happy?”

Kris thought about this for a moment as she sidestepped a puddle. “Yeah, for the most part. Lately I feel that my life is out of control, but I think most musicians find that. They work so hard for so long, and then one day they get that ‘big break’, and success is theirs, and their lives are never the same. I would like things to slow down just a bit. I haven’t told anyone this yet, but I’d like to take next year off and not do any touring. I think management will have a fit over that!”

Melissa sounded a little pouty, “I can tell that I’m wearing out my welcome.”

“What’d you mean?”

Melissa skipped a stone into the surf. “Paul, for one, is beginning to resent my intrusion, and Rick wishes I would leave.”

“Paul’s just concerned that you are taking my focus away. Rick thinks he is big man on campus. Considering he’s my little brother, he certainly acts like my dad at times! This is the first time that the status quo has been challenged. I think they expect you to sit back, look pretty, and not say anything like all of the other SO’s.”

Melissa’s face was filled with concern as they stopped walking. “Am I taking your focus away?”

Kris met her gaze. “Things have changed, there’s no doubt about that…” She looked deep into the blue eyes and willed herself to continue. “I guess. All I want to do is spend time with you.” She laughed. “I’ve never had anything come before my music before; I guess everyone would be nervous.”

Melissa cupped Kris’ cheek. “Then I am stepping on toes?”

Kris smiled reassuringly at her. “Absolutely not.” They walked along in silence for a while. Then she asked, “When will you have vacation?”

“I wasn’t planning to take it until next fall.”

Kris asked, sounding very disappointed, “Oh, so you’ve already been for this year?”

“Well no, I had planned to go see the colors change next fall. I have almost a month saved up now.”

Kris gave her a sideways look. “Don’t you ever go anywhere?”

Melissa laughed, as she pulled stray hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. “No, I guess you can call me a work-a-holic. What are you planning to do on your vacation?”

Kris smiled and looked dreamy. “The first week I just schlep around the house, sleeping a lot, laying in the sun, riding my bike – being a big slug. After that, I never have any concrete plans. We travel so much, and I really hate it. I think I have a fear of flying. Why?”

Melissa held her breath. “Would you consider traveling just a little bit?”

Kris looked questioningly at the blond woman standing next to her. “Well, it depends.”

Melissa was very nervous. “I would like to invite you over to my house to spend sometime together… alone. I mean, after all I need to repay the hospitality you are showing me.”

Smiling, Kris replied, “We might be able to arrange something along those lines.”

A man in his early thirties, not much taller than Kris, approached them. He was wearing the same baseball cap as Kris. “Kris, Kris!”

Suddenly Rita was visible less than ten feet from the group.

Kris looked up and thought he looked familiar. He took a couple more steps, and then she recognized him and shook her head no as she met Rita’s concerned gaze. “Xander, how you doing man?”

He smiled as he came up to them. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to say ‘hi’ while you guys were in my home town.”

“Well, what’d you think of the shows? Good as last year?”

“You guys are always good.” He laughed. “The material is awesome, as usual. But this year, you my dear are smokin’!!”

Kris laughed. “Thank you; I think it’s because I feel so free.”

“I am not kidding man, you are glowing on that stage. A real vision.”

Smiling, Kris replied, “Thank-you.” As she suddenly remembered, “Xander, our biggest fan, this is Melissa; I’m her biggest fan.” Kris took Melissa’s hand and smiled warmly at her.

Xander held out his hand to Melissa. “Well if you have won over my li’l drummer girl, then I want to shake your hand.

Melissa reluctantly shook hands with the man; she was getting a very weird vibe from him.

He quickly turned his attention back to Kris, “Kris I have to say that I was a bit thrown by your announcement…”

Kris interrupted him, a little edge on her voice, “Xander, you know that as a fan I will bend over backward to please you with my music. But with all due respect, my personal life is off limits.”

Xander looked serious. “Kris, you of all people know that your personal life affects your public life. I don’t really care what you do behind closed doors, as long as it’s with me.” He laughed. “But you are bringing hellfire and damnation down on the band.” He looked over at Melissa and gave her the once over. “Have your fling, but then screw your head back on straight and tell everyone it was a mistake…”

Kris had stiffened as she interrupted him, “Stop right there.” She was pointing her index finger into his chest. “You don’t have any right to tell me how to live my life. I entertain you; if you don’t like me personally, then so be it.”

“Seriously? Without me you’d be nothing! After you’re done with your fling, give me a call and I’ll set you straight.”

Kris was shaking her head no. “I need to get away from you.” She moved away from him, but he followed. Suddenly Rita was standing between Kris and Xander.

Rita calmly said, “I think you need to go.”

He began to get upset. “What the fuck is going on – you need me!”

Kris turned her back and began to walk away from the shouting man.

Melissa wasn’t sure what had just happened, but was glad the man was gone.

Kris picked up some rocks and threw them into the water. “Why does everyone think they can tell me how to live my life?”

A woman walking her dog had stopped near them, looking very expectant. “Pardon me, aren’t you Kris Cutler?”

Kris turned and gave the woman her plastic smile. “Yes, I am.”

Suddenly Rita was again visible not far from the group. Having convinced Xander to leave them alone.

The woman went from unsure to exuberant. “Wow!! Could I get your autograph?”

“Sure, do you have something to write… good!”

The woman produced some paper and a pen.

Kris put pen to paper, and still smiling plastic she looked up at the women. “Whom shall I make it out to?”

“Danielle. This is too cool. I was at last night’s concert! I never would have dreamed that I would actually get to talk with you. This is a great honor, I’m one of your biggest fans!”

Melissa addressed the woman, “Nice dog. What’s its name?”

Smiling at Melissa, Danielle noticed for the first time that Kris wasn’t alone. “Her name is Martina.”

Kris handed the pen and paper back. “Here you go Danielle. Would you do me a huge favor?”

Danielle nearly jumped up and down. “Sure, anything, name it?”

Kris’ smile warmed a bit. “Don’t tell anyone else that I’m here. You see it’s my day off…”

Danielle waved her off as she interrupted, “Hey, don’t say another word. I just wanted to tell you that I support your coming out. That was a really brave thing to do.”

Kris gave her a genuine smile. “Thanks.”

Melissa piped up, “Can I ask you something?”

Kris made the introductions. “I’m sorry, this is Melissa Davis.”

A very large smile crept across Danielle’s face. “Sure, name it!”

Melissa looked at Kris and smiled and then tuned back to Danielle. “We would like to find someplace to have some coffee in your fair city.”

Kris added, “But we need someplace that we won’t get mobbed, understand?”

Danielle clapped her hands together. “Right! How about a little gay restaurant I know?”

Melissa smiled. “That sounds great.”

Kris petted the dog. “What’s the name?”

“The Rainbow Room. Do you need directions?”

Melissa replied, “Nah, I’m sure we can find it.”

Kris looked sternly at the woman. “Now you aren’t going to call them and let them know we’re coming, are you?”

Danielle laughed. “No, of course not, although the thought did cross my mind. But no, absolutely not.

Kris extended her hand. “It was very nice to meet you; I’m glad you enjoyed the concert. Thanks for the support.”

She walked away, her dog tugging on her leash. “Thank-you! This has been one of the best days of my life!”

Melissa asked, as they lazily walked back to the limo, “You are really good with people. Do you know what a rush that was for her?”

Kris explained, “Thanks. I don’t want to be someone that is untouchable. I know what it’s like to have your ideal shattered about someone you idolize. After all, I’m just like everyone else.”

They arrived at the place. Kris made the limo driver drive around the block and let them out.

Kris explained, “You’ll find the fastest way to call attention to yourself is to step out of a limo.” They walked up the busy street towards the restaurant. “Rita, will you be dining?” Kris asked as they entered the small restaurant.

“Private table for two,” Rita stated by way of an answer. The hostess looked up at Kris and Melissa; looking confused, she shrugged and said, “Right this way, please.” She took them to the back of the establishment, where they sat at the small table.

Rita spoke close to her ear, and then she was gone. “Kris, I’ll be around if you need me.”

The hostess asked, “Can I get you something to drink?”

Kris replied, “I would love a cream soda.”

Melissa stated, “That sounds good, make it two.” As the hostess disappeared, Melissa asked, “Aren’t you going to take those glasses off?”

Kris protested, “That will blow my cover.”

Melissa persisted, “I don’t care; I want to see your beautiful eyes.”

Kris relented and took off the hat and glasses.

The hostess came back with their drinks; she skipped a beat as she set the drinks down in front of them. “Excuse me?”

Kris replied, “Yes?”

“Aren’t you Kris Cutler?”

Kris pleaded with the hostess, “Yes. Your establishment was recommended to us as a quiet place. Do me a favor and don’t tell anyone else our little secret; I’ll make it worth your while.”

The hostess wore a large smile and disappeared. “Of course. Your waitperson will be right with you.”

Kris looked uneasy. “This is what happens when I take off my disguise. We might be mobbed at any moment.”

Melissa assured her, “Relax, have faith.”

They ordered their meals from a very giggly waitperson.

Kris took a sip of her soda. “What do you do when you’re not at work?”

“I spend a lot of time outside tending to my yard and garden. I read a bit. Love to watch movies, walking my dog, just hanging around.”

Kris’ interest had been piqued. “What kind of dog do you have?”

“Lab mix.”

“What’s her name?”

Melissa had a quirky smile. “How did you know she was a girl? Gertrude, she’s three.”

Kris shrugged, looking knowingly at her. “I bet you drive a pick up truck?”

Melissa looked like she was trying to hide something. “What makes you think that?”

Kris wore a smug grin. “Oh I don’t know, just something about you. Am I right?”

Melissa tried to look indignant, but failed. “Well, it just so happens that I do drive a 4x4 pickup, Sherlock.”

Kris expression changed to genuine curiosity. “Why are you still single?”

Melissa was caught off guard. Her expression faded to curiosity. “Why are you?”

Kris dropped her gaze to the tabletop. “Because of my job. You’ve seen how hard it is to meet people. And I’ve had some really bad relationships in the past couple of years, I guess.”

Melissa rested her chin in her hand and then the elbow on the table. “Unlucky in love?”

Kris hadn’t looked up; she was fiddling with her placemat. “I don’t know about that, but I do know that relationships are something I’m not good at.”

Melissa reached across the table and touched the back of Kris’ hand. “Why?”

Kris looked up, giving a nervous smile. “Well let’s see, I got involved in this sort of twisted ménage à trois. She was living with a woman who turned out not to be her roommate, like she told me, but also her lover. They had this ‘arrangement’ that they would see other people and each other.”

Melissa was having a hard time picturing the ‘arrangement’. “Weird! What else?”

“I got involved with this woman who was psycho.”

Melissa looked doubtful. “Oh right.”

“No, it’s true. She worked as a counselor for the mentally disturbed and she lied to me, stepped out on me, stole things from me. And she knew all the buttons to push to get me to react just like she wanted me to react. We used to have huge fights; broke some of my favorite things while I was seeing her. So I guess that’s why I have been playing it easy for awhile.”

Melissa wiped her hands on her napkin. “Is that it?”

Kris seemed to consider for a moment. “Well, I don’t know how it happens, but twice now I’ve gotten involved with straight women out ‘experimenting’; that was awful…”

Melissa interrupted, “So you’ve only slept with five women?”

Kris laughed. “Oh, I thought we were talking relationships. No, I’ve slept with more than five.” Kris looked thoughtful as she began to run the count in her head.

Melissa smiled. “So how many is it? Time’s up!”

Kris looked rather embarrassed. “I have no real idea. Let’s just say lots.”

Melissa looked askance. “Groupies? Is that fair?”

Kris smiled wryly. “Now there are rules?”

Melissa laughed. “My game, my rules.”

Kris’ eyebrows were raised as she dropped her chin and looked at the other woman. “So how many have you slept with?”

Melissa blushed and looked down, smiled and stated. “I just got out of a strange relationship as well.”

Kris chuckled, thinking this woman was absolutely stunning. “You, my dear, are changing the subject.”

Melissa looked totally innocent. “Oh, did I?”

Kris’ head fell back and she laughed full and hearty. “I do believe you are a tease.”

Melissa looked coy and blushed slightly as she giggled.

“You aren’t going to answer the question are you?”

Melissa made eye contact and batted her light lashes at her lover.

Kris could suddenly feel the room getting hot. She took a drink of her soda; clearing her throat she asked, “So you just got out of a bad relationship…”

“Yeah. It all started out so nice…”

Kris looked sympathetic. “Don’t they always?”

Melissa seemed a little tense. “Yeah. Anyway she began to suffocate me, and we were always together, she was calling all the time. If I didn’t answer the phone she’d want to know where I was; sometimes she’d come by and sit outside my house until I got back. I just got really tired of it all the time, so I broke it off a month or so ago.”

Kris was confused. “But you’re out in the real world, you know where the queers hang out. You are free to do as you please.”

Melissa looked doubtful. “Well contrary to popular belief, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes I know where the queers hang out, but we have a small community, and everyone knows everyone else just about. It’s hard to find someone my own age. Most of the women out there are baby dykes. They have great bods, but intellectually we’ve taken different trains.”

Their food arrived.

Kris said, around a mouthful of food, “So what you’re telling me is that you’re scared?”

Melissa wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Well if you want to put it that way, fine. I won’t lie, I’ve been burned a couple of times, and it does tend to make you gun shy. My priorities are changing.”

Kris dipped her fries into ranch salad dressing and asked, “What do you mean by that?”

“When I was younger, I was mostly interested in great sex. But now I find that it’s taking a back seat to companionship and actual love.”

Kris stated, a little surprised, “Love? That’s a tall order.”

Melissa chuckled. “Don’t I know it! You know that old saying, ‘It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’?”

Kris nodded her head ‘yes’. “Sure.”

Melissa contemplated before replying, “I don’t know if the pain of lost love is worth it.”

Kris’ brow was furrowed. “You don’t sound like you’ve had a good track record when it comes to love.”

Melissa nodded her head in agreement. “No, I don’t think I’m a very good judge of character when it comes to love.”

Kris’ tone was almost accusatory. “But you have it easy!”

Melissa wiped her mouth with her napkin, and looked expectantly. “What do you mean?”

Kris was using her hand to emphasize her point. “When you meet someone, it’s just you.”

Melissa looked totally lost. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Kris took a breath, closed her eyes, and regrouped. “In my case, not only do I have to determine if the woman in question is gay, if she’s my type, if she’s interested, I then have to determine if she’s interested in me or my money.”

Melissa looked lost in thought. “Oh, I never thought of that.”

A couple of women approached their table.

One of them tentatively asked, “Ms. Cutler?”

Kris was wearing her plastic smile as she regarded the waiting fan. “Yes?”

“I hate to bother you, but I was wondering if you could sign an autograph?”

Kris mentally counted to ten as she said, “Sure. Whom should I make it out to?”

Tentative handed a pen and piece of paper over. “Pat and Tina. This is my partner Pat.”

Kris made eye contact with Pat. “Nice to meet you. This is Melissa.”

Melissa was being polite as she made eye contact with the two women. “Nice to meet you.” She thought she’d keep them busy while Kris signed the autograph. “Can I ask you something?”

Tina beamed. “Absolutely!”

Melissa found it almost impossible not to get sucked into her enthusiasm. “How long have you two been together?”

Pat proudly answered, “We’ll be celebrating our 12th anniversary this year.”

Melissa looked surprised. “Well congratulations!”

Tina had a sheepish grin. “You two just met, didn’t you?”

Kris handed back the autograph. “Here you go.”

Melissa smiled. “Yes we did. How did you know?”

Pat smiled indulgently. “You can tell by the way you to look at each other. Trust your hearts and they will never let you down.”

Tina smiled happily. “Ah, young love!”

Kris smiled a bit more warmly. “Can you do us a favor?” She surreptitiously looked about the room. “Can you keep it quiet that we’re here?”

Tina stated, “Sure, but everybody already knows.”

Kris looked more closely around the room and the women were all smiling and some waved.

Melissa’s smile was filled with happiness as she leaned over to Kris. “I guess the secret’s out!”

Pat explained, “We didn’t want to bother you, but it looked like you had finished your meal and Tina and I have to get back to work.”

Tine took over, “We just wanted to come by and say hi. And tell you how proud we are of your decision. It can’t be an easy thing to do in your line of work.”

Melissa pointed out, “Yeah, but look at Melissa and k.d.?”

Pat stated, “It didn’t hurt Ellen any either.”

Tina stated, with a knowing smile playing on her face, “Yeah, she got a new girlfriend out of it too.”

Pat said, as they moved away from the table, “Well, keep the faith! We’re behind you all the way!”

Kris looked around the room once again and all the women were staring at them. Someone started to clap, and suddenly the whole place exploded with applause. Kris blushed as she stood. “Thank-you. Both for letting us enjoy our meal, and for your support.”

Continued in part 4

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