Lederhosen, French Toast and Telemarketing

by dabkey

OK - stuff I should mention.Some naughty language, two women who dig each other, some Celine Dion bad-mouthin', beer and other alcoholic beverages, and native german dress. ALSO: Telemarking is a style of skiing, and the feasibility of caged-carbon structures in chip circuitry is a technology that is currently being studied by people with IQs much higher than mine.

Comments, suggestions? dabkey@hotmail.com.

This one's my first, folks, so kindness, if you please.


December 22, 1997

The dream was fuzzy; a tiny man dressed in tie-dyed lederhosen and wearing a ten-gallon hat was enthusiastically smacking me in the head with a meat tenderizer, all the while singing that Celine Dion song from Titanic. God, I hate that song. And that little cowboy-hippy-munchkin couldn't sing worth a crap.

Reality, when it came oozing into my consciousness, was not so fuzzy, and even more painful; a wicked hangover and a stranger's bed.

Shit.

At least no one was singing that damn song.

Now I've been known to imbibe a bit, sometimes more than is prudent, so the hangover was nothing new.A stranger's bed, however...I gingerly felt behind me for a body and after slowly - very slowly - rolling over to check that indeed I had no company, I let out the breath that I didn't realize I'd been holding.

"Small favors..." I murmured, and winced at the gravely sound of my own voice.

Attempts to switch on my brain to access any memories of the night before proved painful; I had a momentary vision of my tonally challenged cowboy-hippy-munchkin friend switching to a jack-hammer, and a wry, fleeting thought that at least my imagination seemed none the worse for wear.

Leaving my memory to try to catch up with the rest of me, I took stock.

I was naked.

Bad sign.

I sat up - again, very slowly - and looked around. My clothes were folded neatly on a chair across the room. I recognized my own hand in the folding - I had this thing I did with my underwear ever since that incident at camp, with the squirrel and the...um, yeah, well, anyway - apparently I had undressed myself and had not been in any type of hurry.

Good sign.

And my powers of deduction seemed to be functioning at an acceptable, if not optimal, level.

Another good sign.

The room I was in was nice - very nice - and very large.Vertical blinds covered huge floor to ceiling windows and weak, gray dawn light leaked through them, dimly illuminating walls of rough-hewn pine logs, two oversized armchairs, a massive pine dresser and two pine bed stands; one on either side of the extremely comfortable queen-sized bed where I was perched.

No odor of spilled beer and pot, no bodies snoring on the floor, no cigarette butts or plastic cups...definitely not the kind of place I was used to waking up in with a hangover like this.

I didn't know what kind of sign that was, but the 300 count sheets sliding coolly against my bare skin and the deep, plush berber carpet that met my feet when I cautiously stood were quite pleasant; good sign or bad, it was sure a hell of a lot better than the tiny one-bedroom house that I was sharing with three other students on the Hill.

I glanced at a framed picture on the bed stand; an attractive couple in their mid-forties smiled back at me, jumpstarting my memory.

The Scotts.And Greta.And tequila.And ouzo. And martinis.I never drink martinis. No wonder I felt like crap warmed over. I smiled at the memory.

Greta was a former college roommate who, after graduating with the business degree her parents had so coveted, had finally followed her own dreams and moved to the mountains to become a ski instructor. I'd been tempted to join her, but had instead gone back for my masters, much to everyone's shock. I'd kept in touch with her, staying with her often, and she had invited me up this year to spend five days of my Christmas break with her.

The Scotts were clients of Greta's who booked her for private lessons whenever they were on the mountain, and I had met them yesterday when I ran into Greta in the lodge after stopping for a quick break.I'd joined them for lunch and we had immediately hit it off; so much so that I'd finished off the rest of my ski day with them, stayed through aprĖs ski drinks and dinner, and finally, after we had nearly been thrown out of a restaurant for being too noisy, I'd gone back to their condo for what Ken had promised would be the best martini I had ever tasted.

I hadn't had the heart to tell him I hated martinis - hell, at that point, I probably didn't even remember I hated martinis.

More drinks, talking and laughter had ensued, and when Greta had headed home around ten, I had stayed; eventually taking Ken and Pam up on their offer of a bed and Pam's famous french toast for breakfast.

Which was why I was in a strange room nursing a truly spectacular hangover.

Relieved to remember I had done nothing last night worse than tell a few bad jokes, I shuffled into the room's private bath and poked through the medicine cabinet. I was thrilled to find an industrial sized bottle of ibuprofen hidden behind the shaving cream and band-aids; I took four, washing them down with water slurped greedily straight from the faucet and a prayer that they work quickly.

The shower, when I turned it on, seemed incredibly loud in my already pounding head, and I grimaced as the needles of water hit my skin. Ten minutes later, thought, I felt nearly human, and was humming ‘let it snow, let it snow, let it snow', thinking that french toast was starting to sound good, and toweling my hair dry as I stepped back into the bedroom.

"Excuse me."

My body stilled. The voice was low and pleasant, distinctly female...Nice.

I peered through white folds and saw dark hair, blue eyes, a small, compact body and full, sensuous lips.

Very nice.

But very young.

"Hi."I said, and threw the towel over my shoulder casually. I was aware of, but not particularly embarrassed by, my nakedness, and smiled a little at her obvious discomfort.

Something flickered in her eyes for a moment, a brief flash of heat, and my grin widened.

"Who.The FUCK. Are you?"

Haughty. Demanding. Bitchy. The full lips seemed suddenly more pouty than sensuous, and the voice not nearly as attractive.

"And why the FUCK are you in my room?"

Nope, not attractive at all.And too young anyway.Pity.

My room.I looked at her more closely and saw the resemblance; Ken's blue eyes and Pam's high cheekbones, fine features covered by youthful plumpness. This must be one of the kids Pam and Ken had spoken of - they had two; a boy and a girl, both in college somewhere back east.What had their names been?Kyle and...Kim?Yes, that was it. Kim. The brainiac that had started college at 17.

I pulled the towel from my shoulder and continued drying my hair, watching her try not to watch me.

"You must be Kimmie." I used the nickname on purpose; Pam had told me she hated it, and this girl's attitude was starting to piss me off a little.

Her eyes, looking everywhere but at my naked body a moment before, snapped up to mine, her face flushed with anger. She shoots, she scores! I thought, and tried not to grin.

"It's Kimberly," She answered tightly, "and you haven't answered my question.Who the fuck are you?"

I raised an eyebrow. Kimberly even. Not Kim.I believe she was a tad miffed at me.

"Now, now, Kimmie." I drawled. I don't know why, but I just had to push this kid's buttons. "Such language.What would your mother think?"

If she had been a cartoon character, steam would have shot out of her ears and her head would have exploded. As it was, her face turned a shade of pink I'd never seen, and she just barely stopped herself from stamping her foot in frustration.This time, I couldn't hide the smile.

With a noise that sounded very much like a harrumph, she stomped over to the chair that held my clothes, picked up the pile, and tossed it at me with a flourish.

"Get out!"

I was impressed with her flair, as was she. Until she noticed my bra dangling off her arm, the clasp caught in her heavy cable-knit sweater.

I couldn't help it. I laughed. Loudly.

She was mortified. Which, I am somewhat ashamed to say, made me laugh harder. Somewhat.She had been a complete hole to me, and I was glad to get a little back. I tempered my mirth, though, when I spotted a hint of tears welling in her blue eyes, and feeling a little guilty, decided I'd had enough fun.

I put the towel back over my shoulder, retrieved my clothing from the floor, and approached her slowly.She didn't move. Didn't speak. And certainly wouldn't look at me. I carefully separated my bra from her sweater.

I stepped back and regarded her thoughtfully.

"Darcy." I said.

Her eyes met mine hesitantly, and when they did, it was not the brash young woman of moments before, but rather an uncertain, shy teenager.

"W-what?"Her voice trembled a little, and I felt about two inches tall.

"My name. Darcy Max.I'm a ...friend of your parents."

She blinked at me owlishly, and I sighed.Jesus, I'm an ass.

"Kimberly?"I said softly, and she blinked at me again. "Kimberly, I'm really, really sorry."I backed away from her with an apologetic smile. "I'll get out of your way now, ok?"

She turned away without speaking and I left the room, hoping to find another place to get dressed before I met up with the brother and reduced him to tears, too.

I did meet the brother, but fortunately I was fully clothed, and he didn't seem to take near as much offense at my presence as his sister did.He was sitting on the couch, watching what sounded like cartoons, and didn't even look up when I came up the stairs.

"Morning." I said cautiously, looking towards the kitchen to see if anyone else was awake.

He looked up in surprise. "Oh. Hey. Good morning."

Like his sister, Kyle Scott was quite good-looking; his hair was lighter, but he had the same blue eyes and strong features. Unlike his sister, though, and to my relief, his smile was friendly.

I smiled back and crossed the room, extending a hand. "I'm Darcy.You must be Kyle."

"Yep, that'd be me."He scrambled off the couch and shook my hand vigorously, giving me the once over while trying to appear not to.

"Please, sit down.I didn't mean to interrupt.I was going to make some coffee - can you give me an idea of how much I need to make?Are your folks big coffee people, or your sister?And you?Would you like some?"

"Oh yeah. We all love our coffee." He laughed."Kim is a complete bi...um...she's pretty grumpy in the morning without it."

"That's an understatement," I grumbled to myself.

"Pardon?"

"Um, your parents were telling me you're a computer science major.What kind of stuff are you into?"

When Pam made an appearance a half an hour later, Kyle and I were sitting together on the couch, sipping coffee and discussing his latest programming assignment.

"Kyle, honey! When did you get in? We didn't expect you in so soon!"She looked perky and chipper as she moved to hug her son; not even the decency to look a tiny bit like how I felt.

"Hi Mom."He stood and hugged her back, picking her up off the floor and laughing when she squeaked alarm. I scooted out of the way as he set her down. "Kim managed to catch an earlier flight out."

"Well what a great surprise!" She hugged him again, and smiled at me over his shoulder."Hiya Darcy.I see you've met my boy."

"I have." I smiled at the both of them as they stood arm in arm.I raised my cup."I hear from Kyle that you're a coffee fanatic.Can I get you a cup?"

"Oh god yes! Please, please, please! With a little cream."She winked at me. "And how are you feeling this morning?"

Ah-ha! Maybe she wasn't feeling as chipper as she was acting. "Fabulous." I said with a laugh, and moved towards the kitchen to pour her some coffee.

"So where's your sister?"The two continued to talk as I poured.

"I dunno - she went downstairs to put her stuff away, and never came back up."

I bit my lip, feeling guilty. Ken came down a moment later and greeted his son enthusiastically, and a few minutes after that, Kim came up from downstairs.

I noticed her before the others did, and nodded warily at her. Damn, if she wasn't the cutest thing... She shot me a look of distain that made me flinch. She noticed the flinch and gave me a cold smile before entering the room and greeting her parents.

Get a grip, Darce, she hates your guts and she's Pam and Ken's SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD DAUGHTER! I chastised myself for my inappropriate attraction.

The family chatted together for a few minutes and I puttered around the kitchen until the initial excitement of seeing each other had worn off.Pam smiled at me and grabbed my hand when I handed her a cup of coffee.

"Kimmie, honey, have you met Darcy?She's a friend of Greta's - we skied with her yesterday. She's fabulous!"

‘Kimmie' was glaring at me like I was the reason the Spice Girls broke up, and when she spoke, it was through gritted teeth.

"Don't call me Kimmie, mom, and yes, I've met your little friend Darcy.I barely recognized her with all those clothes on, though."

I could feel my eyes widen a little in surprise - I didn't expect her to bring that up - and felt a faint blush creep up my cheeks. Shit, was this the girl that only an hour before had been crying?

Not hearing the last remark, and oblivious to the tension, Pam chattered on. "She's a telemarketer."

Oh boy. I saw the gleam in the girl's eyes, like she was sharpening up her claws to rip me a new one, and corrected hastily, "Telemarker.As in the skis.Not the phone people."

But it was too late.I was now, in Kim's eyes, an annoying person who called during dinner and sold magazine subscriptions.It obviously didn't do much to raise her opinion of me, but it sure as hell boosted her confidence.

She smiled in delight. "Really."

I opened my mouth to again explain the difference between telemarking and telemarketing, but the two women had moved past me to the kitchen, discussing breakfast.

Damn.

I cleared my throat. "I should probably get out of your hair...thanks for letting me sta..."

"Nonsense!I promised you french toast, remember? And I know Ken has something he would like to discuss with you."She glanced at her husband, and I looked from one to the other in confusion.

"I..."

"You're staying, Darcy." She gave me a look.I knew Pam was a lawyer, but until that moment, I had had a hard time picturing it.

"Um, sure.Thanks." Pam smiled, knowing it had never been in doubt.

Breakfast proved tasty but nerve-wracking, as Kim continued to toss thinly veiled barbs my way with annoying efficiency.I did my best to hold my tongue and ignore her, not wanting to let her parents know I thought their daughter was a spoiled brat, but by the end of the meal both Ken and Pam were looking at the two us with worried expressions.

Ken dropped his bomb just as I was cleaning plates off the table.

He had talked to his partners earlier that morning about my thesis ideas for using caged-carbon structures in chip circuitry, and they were going to look into financing some R&D to see if the idea would be feasible in the marketplace.Ken was a board member of a venture capital group, and I had jokingly mentioned my project to him the night before, telling him I was looking for investors.

"You're what?!?"Kim said in dismay.

"You are?!?" I croaked in amazement, and we both stared at him as he calmly munched on a piece of bacon, not realizing he had just both rocked both of our worlds.

"She's a telemarketer, for Christ sakes, Dad!"

"Kimmie!" Pam admonished.

"No, I'm not."I'd had enough of her lip. "I'm a materials engineer.Who also happens to telemark.As in the skis.Not the phone people."I smiled smugly at her, not at all guilty about the flush that crept over her face. I turned to Ken. "Are you serious, Ken?You're group might really be interested?"

"I don't believe this!" Kim pushed out from the table and stormed down the stairs.

"Jeez, what's up with Kim-butt."Kyle's offhand remark cut the quiet that had descended on the table, and he reached for more french toast.

I sighed, and looked at Pam and Ken, who were looking at each other worriedly."Me, I think."

They looked at me in confusion."Kim and I had a little...run in...earlier this morning, and I think she's angry at me. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset her - she startled me, and I was in her room...things just kind of got out of hand."It was close enough to the truth that I didn't feel bad.

"Aww, Kim gets all bent about the stupidest things...I wouldn't worry about it, Darcy." Kyle mumbled through his French toast, and I gave him a grateful smile.

"I'm sure Kyle is right, Darcy - she's been a bit moody lately, and I doubt it was anything you did.I'm sorry she's been so rude to you all morning."Pam looked at me kindly, and reached across the table to touch my hand.

"Well thank you - and thanks for letting me crash last night, and for breakfast this morning, and everything. I had a great time yesterday."I looked at my watch and stood. "I better get back to Greta's, though, before she leaves and locks me out." I had a key, but thought it was a good time to leave, and not cause any more problems with Kim.

I shook Kyle's hand, gave Pam a hug and a promise to see her before I left, and Ken walked me to the door.

"I hope my grump of a daughter isn't chasing you away, Darcy.You're welcome to stay; we really enjoy having you around."His voice was gruff and he patted my back in a fatherly fashion.

"Of course not!You and Pam have been so nice - thank you for such a wonderful day yesterday." I smiled, and gave him a hug - he was embarrassed, but pleased.

"I wish you weren't leaving tonight - we'd all love to spend more time with you."He handed me his card."Here's my card; my email and home phone are on the back, too.Drop me line, if you are serious about the financing. The people I talked to this morning were very keen."

I gave him a dazzling smile."Thank you so much, Ken. This is so unexpected.I don't know what else to say but thank you."

"Don't thank me yet...you've got to charm others besides me."He smiled."But I don't think that will be a problem."

I blushed, and hugged him again.

"Let us know if you ever get out to Connecticut, or if you're up here again next Christmas.We come up every year."

"Thanks Ken," I said, and tucked the card in my pocket, "I'll do that."

December 22, 2002

I stomped the snow from my boots and followed the herd of people through the doors and into the lodge, feeling my face tingle with warmth after several hours of cold. I stepped out of the flow and looked around, finally spotting Greta's tall form waving at me from across the room.

After a couple of minutes of maneuvering between bodies, boots, chairs and tables, I finally reached her, delighted when I saw that Pam and Ken were with her at the table.

"Hey, you two!"I hugged them both, "It's so good to see you!"

That breakfast five years ago had proved to be a huge turning point in my life - I had contacted Ken soon after returning home, hoping he was serious about his offer.I could never have dreamed what had happened next; after initial feasibility studies, his company had agreed to back the research and development of my circuitry idea, and I had sold the patent earlier that year for a sum of money I couldn't even fathom.

With the money, I had done what I'd been tempted to do years before - I bought a house on the mountain, moved in, and skied nearly every day. Eventually, I knew, this wouldn't be enough, and I would have to find another project or job to occupy my time, but for now, I was content to be a ski bum.

We chatted amiably while I removed my jacket, hat and gloves and shook out my hair.I hadn't cut it in ages, and I knew it looked a bit unruly, but I no longer needed to worry about corporate appearances, thank god.

"Wow, Darce, you look great!More relaxed than I've seen you in ages, and all healthy and tan..."Pam sipped on a drink and looked me over. I had seen the Scotts often over the past five years; Ken mostly, because of business, but I'd seen Pam enough that she had known how much pressure I had been under, and how I hadn't handled it particularly well.

I laughed."No stress and sunshine at 10,000 feet will do that to you - I don't imagine my skin will be thanking me in a few years, though."

"Well, I think you look fantastic.Last time I saw you, you looked like you were about to keel over."

I grinned at her, glancing over as someone sat down beside Ken.

Every muscle in my body froze. The tingle that shivered through my body made me blink. I took a calming breath, trying to hide my reaction behind a neutral smile, but she had seen it, and there was an answering flash of something...it couldn't be what it had looked like, but something...

"Kim, you remember our friend Darcy Max, don't you?"Pam's voice came from far away.

Wow.The same blue eyes and striking features, but leaner - the petulance was gone and in its place a mature confidence and self-assurance.

Wow, I thought again.She was the sexiest thing I had ever seen.

She ran a hand absently through her hair.I was jealous of her hand.

She smiled.A real, genuine, ‘it's nice to see you, I don't hate you' smile. I melted.

She held a hand out to me and murmured, "Ah, yes.The telemarketer." That voice...I somehow managed to make myself stand, and grasp the extended hand. The touch of her skin on mine nearly made me gasp.

Oh boy.Was I ever in trouble.

I sat down quickly, before my legs gave way, and smiled weakly at her. "Nice to see you again, Kimberly."

She laughed lightly. I wish she would stop doing that.I hoped she would never stop.

"Oh, please.Just Kim. I haven't been Kimberly since I got over myself a few years back."

"Kim, then." I said with a shy smile.Shy smile? Me?May-day, may-day, I can't hold her, captain; warp-core breach; Piccard to bridge...

"I hope you'll ski with us this afternoon, Darcy, it's been ages."Ken's earnest voice broke the spell. I blinked and looked around.

Pam was looking at Kim thoughtfully, and Greta was trying hard not to grin.

I kicked her under the table, and she yelped, but the grin didn't go away.

After that, Ken and Greta took out trail maps and began to plan the rest of the day, and I leaned back and listened, regaining my composure and only sneaking a few quick looks at Kim.

The third time I caught her sneaking her own looks, I began to think that maybe I hadn't been wrong about what I seen on her face when she sat down. Interest. Attraction. Desire.

The thought sent another shiver through my body, and bolstered my confidence. The next time I caught her looking, I gave her a slow, teasing grin and watched in satisfaction as her nostrils flared and the muscles in her jaw jumped.

"So, are ya with us, Darce?"I looked over at Greta in surprise, not realizing the rest of the table had begun to gather their things, getting ready to head back out on the slopes. I managed to keep myself from looking over at Kim when I replied.

"Oh, you bet."

The first lift was a quad, and since there were five of us, I offered to go single.

"Don't be silly." Pam said in her lawyer voice, "Kimmie and you can ride together, and we'll go as a triple."Before either of us could say a word, Pam herded Ken and Greta into line and picked up another single.

Kim looked a little bemused, and I had to admit to feeling a little dazed myself.

"You don't mind, do you?" I asked out of politeness.

The slow smile nearly scorched my skin, "Oh no, I don't mind at all."

Conversation between us at first was awkward; I was too aware of her shoulder pressing up against mine to be able to say anything coherent, and she seemed to be struggling with basic speech as well. Finally, she burst out laughing. I looked at her quizzically.

"Your skis." She said.

I looked down with a frown, wondering if something was wrong with them. They looked fine, and I looked back up at her, confused.

"Telemarks. As in the skis, not the phone people."She laughed again.

"You remember?" I looked at her in surprise. Those were my exact words from five years before.

"Oh yes, I remember.I remember our first meeting quite well, actually.I've been meaning to thank you for years."

"Thank me?" I asked curiously, but all I got was a mysterious smile in response, and then the lift ride was over.

Pam continued to pair us off for the rest of the day, and neither of us complained as we became more and more comfortable with each other. By the end of the day, I felt as though I had known her for years, and when I added that to the nearly insane attraction I felt for her, I knew I was in serious trouble.

And didn't care a bit.

After the lifts closed, Greta and I were invited back to the Scott's condo for dinner, and we both accepted happily. Kyle had arrived earlier that afternoon, and he swept his sister, mother, and then me up into huge bear hugs as we tromped into the condo.

"Hello, beautiful!" He whispered in my ear as he hugged me, then held me out by the shoulders, "You look great, babe."

"You look pretty good yourself, handsome," I replied, and gave him a kiss.Kyle and I had stayed in touch, and he had become a good friend.In fact, Kim was the only Scott that I had not kept in touch with. Have I mentioned I'm an idiot, as well as an ass?

I glanced over at his sister, who was looking at the rather cozy scene with an unreadable expression on her face. I gave Kyle another smile and stepped away, letting him introduce me to the two friends who had come along with him, Jeff and Bryce.

After introductions were complete, Ken took drink orders and people scattered around the living room, talking and laughing. I talked with Kyle and his friends for a while, occasionally catching Kim's eye and smiling at her, but the smiles in return were merely polite, and I sighed in frustration.

Kyle eventually drifted into conversation with Ken and Greta, and I slipped away to see if Pam needed any help in the kitchen.She asked me to chop vegetables, which I did absently, my thoughts careening wildly about my head.

I felt her before she moved up beside me; a sudden warmth that spread through my body like a shot of good tequila.She had taken a shower, and smelled of soap and rain - I wondered how it was possible for anyone to smell so good just by being clean.

I said nothing, just enjoying the feel of her beside me.

"You and Kyle seem pretty close," she said after a while, her voice low. I heard the question in it, and stopped chopping.

I looked over at Kyle, talking animatedly with his friends, and smiled. "Yeah, Kyle's the best."

I felt her stiffen, and shift away slightly. I resumed my chopping for a few moments, then stopped and looked at her, waiting for her to meet my eyes.

I took a breath. Here goes.

"I've always told him that if I weren't a lesbian, I'd marry him in a heartbeat." I held her gaze until I saw her body relax, then turned back to my chopping.

She said nothing, but I felt the brief heat of her fingers as they trailed lightly across my back before she walked away, and stifled a sigh of pleasure.

Dinner was a loud and boisterous affair; Jeff and Bryce proved very entertaining, and I had to wipe tears of laughter from my eyes on more than one occasion.After dinner was finished and the dishes cleared and washed, Bryce threw out the idea that we should go dancing, and got immediate yeas from Jeff, Kyle and Greta. Kim agreed after a little cajoling, and after hearing Kim was going, I had no problem saying yes. Pam and Ken both pleaded exhaustion after a long day of skiing, so after saying our goodbyes, the six of us headed out into the cold.

The Scott's condo was at the base of the mountain, within easy walking distance of downtown and several bars and nightclubs.Greta left the group as we passed her apartment, promising to meet us after she'd showered and changed. When we reached the nightclub we had agreed on, I decided to do the same - my house was only a few blocks off of Main, only a few minutes walk from where we were.

I waved and started walking as they entered the club, but had only gone twenty yards or so when I heard a voice behind me.

"Darcy, wait up!"I stopped.And tried to hide my goofy grin before turning to watch Kim jogging towards me."I wanted to see your place," she said in explanation, and fell in step beside me.

We walked in companionable silence, hands in our pockets, our shoulders occasionally brushing.When we reached my house, I let her in and hung both of our coats while she looked around.

"This is really nice, Darcy," she said in approval as she glanced around the cozy front room before following me into the kitchen.I offered her wine, beer, or whiskey, and was absurdly pleased when she asked for a beer.I grabbed two bottles from the fridge, held them up for her inspection and after receiving an affirmative nod, removed the tops and handed her one.

We sipped in silence, standing close together in the small kitchen, neither of us looking at the other.She ran a finger absently along the granite countertop - I watched its elegant path in fascination, wondering what my therapist would think about my sudden urge to be a two-inch slab of rock.

I shook myself, and set my bottle down.

"Make yourself at home - I'll just be a minute."As I eased past her our bodies touched, and I stumbled a little. She grabbed my arm with surprising strength, and I bit back a groan. Jesus, Darce, get a grip!I mumbled an apology and fled to the sanctuary of the shower.

I heard Patty Griffin playing softly in the other room when I exited the shower, and I applauded Kim's taste in music. I quickly donned clean jeans and a long-sleeved polo, knowing the dress code in this town was nearly non-existent. My hair was still wet, so I was toweling it dry as I walked out of the bedroom.

"Deja-vous," she said softly from the couch and I stopped toweling, letting my hand drop as I watched her stand and move towards me. She handed me my beer, and I automatically threw the towel over my shoulder as I accepted the bottle.She laughed, and after realizing what I had done, I chuckled along with her.

"I've been meaning to apologize," she said, picking at the label of her beer, "about my behavior that day."She looked away. "I was a complete bitch. Seventeen and I knew everything...God, I was obnoxious."

She looked back at me, and I smiled. "Well, my behavior wasn't all that mature either, so I think we're even."

We were quiet for a while - I didn't move, and she didn't move away.

"What did you mean today, when you said you wanted to thank me?"I finally asked for something to say, and I think the sound of my voice startled us both.

"What? Oh..." She smiled to herself, and gave me a searching look. Finding whatever she needed to find, she took a deep breath and wet her lips.

"That day, when I walked in and saw you..." She stopped, staring behind me as though her mind was far away. She came back with a start, and laughed nervously. After a swig of beer, she continued.

"After I saw you that way...so..." she stopped again, and looked at me, then looked away and said softly, "You were magnificent, you know. So cocky, so damn sure of yourself, so damn...beautiful." She straightened, and took a deep breath.Her voice turned matter-of-fact. "After seeing you like that, and reacting the way I did, I was forced to admit some things about myself - things that I had been denying for a while."

She finally looked up at me and grinned, any hint of her former discomfort gone. "So thank you." She held out her hand for me to shake. "For helping me come out to myself."

I gave her hand a squeeze, not letting go right away.

"Glad I could be of service.And glad you remember me fondly.And to think, all these years, I've been thinking that you hated my guts."

"Oh no," she said, and took a step forward when I tugged gently on her arm. "I remember you quite fondly.You never forget your first gi..."

I kissed her. I didn't even think about what I was doing - I was watching her mouth as she talked, and suddenly I was kissing her. Her lips immediately melted into mine, her mouth opening, drawing me in.I groaned and wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her closer, wanting to feel her entire body against me. She sighed and put a hand into my hair, pulling my head down and increasing the pressure of the kiss.

"God," she breathed when we finally parted, "I've been wanting to do that for five years."

I looked down at her and laughed, happier than I had been in a long, long time.

"Better late than never, hmm?"

"Oh yeah," she whispered, and pulled me down again.

We never did make it out dancing.But we did make it for Pam's famous french toast the next morning.

THE END


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