Part 11 - See disclaimers in Part 1

"Yes, I'll be sure to have her call later today... thank you... yes, I'll pass on your message. Thank you again. Good-bye."

Rae disconnected the line and hit the speed dial for the lab.

"Hey, Julie. How was your weekend?... mine was, well, adventurous. I got jumped down on the beach." She pulled the phone away from her ear as the office manager shrieked. "Yeah, I'm fine, just a nasty gash on my hand. I'll tell you about it later... yeah, that's why I'm calling. Listen, I won't be in today, but if anything comes up, you can get me here, or on the cell... no, I'm fine, really. I just have a few things to do that can't wait... ok, thanks... hold down the fort. I'll be there tomorrow... yep, I will... alright, thanks. Bye."

She hung up the phone and headed to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. That accomplished, she wandered back into the living room and started folding the blankets on the couch. Evon had cried herself sick the night before, so Rae convinced her to stay the night and rest. It hadn't taken much persuading, she had been so distraught. Getting her to take the bed had been a little more difficult, but eventually she conceded, exhausted, and wearing one of Rae's tshirts, had crawled into the large bed and fallen asleep almost immediately. Rae kept vigil for an hour or so, sitting on the edge of the mattress, soothing the small woman's dream induced whimpers with low, melodic humming and soft caresses on her face. She contemplated sliding in beside Evon, to give her something to hang onto during the worst of the inevitable nightmares, but decided against it. Instead, she pulled extra blankets from the linen closet and curled up on the couch, barely long enough for her six foot frame.

Even if she had been uncomfortable, she wouldn't have noticed. Her mind had been racing from the evening's revelations. The shock still hadn't completely worn off. She had been able to piece together Vic's story in between Evon's sobs and erratic recollection, and had also learned that Denise was one of Evon's best friends. It was an incredible coincidence, and Rae wondered briefly if the blonde was aware of her past with Denise. Not that it really mattered... unless she and Evon were to become more than platonic friends. And that seemed pretty remote now, given that the poor woman was trying to recover from such a tragic loss. Rae shuddered as she remembered the crippling shock that roared through her body when she received the phone call about Sarah's accident. She could just imagine what she would have felt had Sarah died.

She examined her feelings for the woman sleeping in her bed. The twinge in her gut wasn't going away, but she knew it had to be ignored. She was good at that. Years of disappointing relationships had taught her how to separate hurt from the business of daily living. Hurt, pain, despair... they were all emotions that had to be contained, lest they render their victim incapable of functioning, and Rae couldn't afford that. She had a business to run, employees and clients who depended on her, bills to pay, and most of all, a sensitive, caring soul. If she fell apart, there would be no one to pick up the pieces; that is, no one who her fiercely proud nature would permit her to ask for more than a few hours of solace. Not Sarah, not Richard, not Denise - they all had their own lives to live. Although she knew that all three would be unforgiving if they knew just how much she guarded her heart, even from them.

Rae was a survivor, it was her nature, and few had been able to penetrate her emotional armor deeply enough to cause any harm. So she would be Evon's friend, and help her deal with this cruel blow life had dealt. Spending time with the sweet, young woman would be wonderful, regardless of whether she was forced to stifle any romantic inclinations along the way.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee beckoned, so she put the blankets away and headed to the kitchen. Rae heard stirring in the bedroom and smiled. She had put a new toothbrush and clean towels on the bedroom chair, atop Evon's folded clothes. She took two mugs from the cabinet and poured herself a cup, leaving the other empty for Evon until she was done in the bathroom. She filled the carafe with the remaining coffee and then lifted her head at the sound of bare feet padding down the hallway. Evon appeared in the doorway, still wearing only the overly large tshirt, hair tousled, face puffy from sleep and the arduous tears from the night before. The hazel eyes looking up at Rae were red rimmed yet.

"I'm really late for work."

Rae smiled gently. "How do you feel?"

"I'm ok, I think."

"Good. And you aren't late. I called and they put me through to a Madame Plante. I told her you weren't feeling well, and would call later today. She said it wasn't a problem, and to feel better. I hope that was ok."

Evon looked surprised, but not displeased. "Aren't you late?"

"No, I phoned the lab. Julie can take care of things. She'll call if there's anything pressing."

The blonde didn't say anything. She just gazed at Rae, as though searching for something in her expression. Then she approached slowly and reached her arms up, encircling the tall woman's neck, giving her a tender hug.

Rae bent over and wrapped her arms gently around the slender body. Evon's soft cheek pressed against hers, and she heard the low murmur from the lips brushing her ear.

"Thank you. For everything. You're a good person." Evon tightened her hold.

Rae closed her eyes as the small body molded to hers, and the tiny flame, dormant for so long, ignited in her belly. No amount of resolve or carefully planned distance could have prevented it. And Rae knew in that instant she had fallen.

The last thing Evon expected, or wanted, to see when she pulled into her driveway later that day was her mother's Seville. Before she even had the chance to turn off the ignition, Monica Lagacé was standing at the driver's side window.

"Evon, my God! Where have you been? This is the third time I've been here today! I was worried sick!"

"Hello, mother. I'm fine." Evon stepped slowly out of the car, not wanting to face the interrogation.

"I called the dance studio this morning and Madame Plante told me you were ill. She said some woman had called very early to say you wouldn't be in. I rushed right over and you weren't here! I was beside myself!"

Evon felt suddenly tired, the energy she had regained in Rae's presence draining through the soles of her feet. "Would you like to come in?" She didn't wait for a response, assuming her mother would follow.

"Of course! I want to know what's wrong and where you've been! Who is this woman?"

"Mother please. Just come in. Would you like something to drink?"

"Yes, tea will be fine. But I want to know what's going on with you, Evon."

The blonde pointedly ignored the request as she busied herself preparing tea for both of them. "I'll join you in the living room, mother, in a moment. Go ahead and sit down."

The older woman stared at her daughter for a few seconds, then stalked down the hall, heels clicking on the wooden floor.

Evon leaned heavily on the counter, weariness washing over her. She had spent the day talking quietly with Rae, sensing the tall woman's empathy, gaining strength from their growing friendship. She realized that in the span of twenty-four hours, Rae had learned and accepted more about her than her parents had in the last two years. It was a sad testimony to her family life when a woman she had known for mere weeks knew more about her state of mental health than the people responsible for her presence in the world.

She prepared the tray and walked down the hall, resigning herself to the confrontation soon to follow.

"Here you are, mother." She sat down across the room and waited for the barrage of questions. She wasn't prepared for the icy tone.

"Dear, let me preface this discussion with stating that your father and I are very concerned about your health. You haven't come around like we had hoped you would upon your return home. Therefore, we want you to go back into therapy. As well, we want you to move back home and start socializing with your old friends. Edward asks about you frequently." Monica settled back into the couch, sipped her tea, and looked satisfied with herself as she waited for her daughter's response.

Evon translated her mother's words in her head. They thought I'd stop being gay when I came home from London, and if I move back in with them, they think they'll be able to control my activities and decide who I see. There had been a time when Evon revered her parents, especially her mother, whose grace she wanted to emulate so badly, it tore at her. Her father had doted on her as a very young child, but grew distant as she got older and spent years focused on ballet. By the time she had given up her career as a dancer, the distance between all three had become a gulf almost too wide to bridge, exacerbated by her own and her mother's disappointment in her failure, and her father's lack of effort.

She had taken for granted that parents and children were supposed to love each other, remote as that love may be, but she understood now that the person she had become would never satisfy her parent's expectations of their only child. As she watched her very proper mother, smug in her certainty that her daughter would comply with her demands, Evon realized with a pang of remorse, that she didn't like the woman very much.

"Mother, I'm an adult with a good job and my own place, and I'm trying to put my life back together. Moving home would be a step in the wrong direction. But thank you for the offer, and your concern."

Monica looked up, impatience clear in the set of her lips. She set the cup and saucer on the coffee table and clasped her hands in her lap. "I obviously did not make it clear that we are not offering options. We realize that you are an adult, however, you've made some rather juvenile mistakes that have caused your father and I to question your judgment, not to speak of the humiliation you've brought upon the Lagacé name."

Evon gazed incredulously at her mother. "Juvenile mistakes?! Humiliation? I can't..."

"Dear God, Evon! Have you turned a completely blind eye to what you've done? First, you throw away your dance career and the thousands of dollars we spent on the best schools. Next you join those damned ridiculous bands and run around like a heathen, squandering your years in college. Then you run off to London and proceed to utterly humiliate me in the best circles by getting involved with that... that... disgusting, gold digging, stubborn little tramp who coerces you into becoming a... a... my God, I can barely say it! A lesbian! And do not accuse me of being close-minded, my dear! I know many gay males. It is expected and must be tolerated in the arts. But not women, and certainly not my daughter!
Did you think, Evon, that no one would notice? That we wouldn't find out your filthy secret? Your father and I were sick, listening to all that gossip! And that... Victoria... had the absolute gall to refuse to stop seeing you! And hung up on your father! He was furious!"

Monica was on her feet now, pacing the room, heels beating a staccato rhythm.

Evon was stupefied; her ability to speak or move had deserted her. Vic talked to my parents? My God. She didn't say a word.

"We waited to see if you would come to your senses. Do you understand that we could not attend your graduation from Benesh, not because we were traveling, but because we were advised against it? Your father wanted to murder that lesbian! You drove us into counseling, Evon! Sharon said that our presence would cause an irreparable rift in our relationship with you if we attempted to take you home before you had run the course of that haze you were in! We couldn't even call for more than five minutes at a time for fear of losing control, listening to you prattle on about how wonderful life was in London!
And I am certain that your offer from the company was simply a nod to me, young lady, because I can assure you that the rumors were rampant by then. I almost put a stop to it until again, Sharon advised against it. That betraying bitch! She said she would help bring you back to us, and then stops your sessions without even consulting us! I will tell you this, my dear, it is a good thing that that woman was killed, because we were on our way to England to drag you back home by then, kicking and screaming if we were driven to it, just to stop the insanity you had brought to our lives!"

The china cup and saucer Evon had been holding dropped to the floor from a hand gone numb with shock, where it shattered into a hundred tiny pieces, splattering lukewarm tea over her pant leg and shoe. Her mother didn't react, continuing on with her tirade.

"Do you know why your father is not here? Because he is sick to death of your behavior, young lady! Oh, I tried, but he isn't as forgiving as I! He is prepared to disown his only child if you do not stop sullying this family's name! You've been given everything a girl could want, and this is how you repay that kindness!
My God! We received a phone message yesterday from some woman's housemate wondering if you were going out to one of those disgusting homosexual establishments I'm sure you've been frequenting. I have never been so embarrassed in my life! The cleaning staff heard it, for God's sake! And now today! Having to hear from Madame Plante, of all people, that another woman who didn't leave her name calls to say you won't be in for work! You are ruining your reputation, young lady, and dragging mine and your father's impeccable standing in this community down with you!  We won't stand for this, Evon! Do you hear me? We will not tolerate this any longer!"

Monica Lagacé was shrieking now, teetering on the edge of hysteria.

"STOP IT! Stop, damn you!" Evon's body clenched painfully as despair and fury replaced mute shock. Tears leaked from the corners of her tightly squeezed eyelids. "How dare you?! How dare you say that Vic's death was a good thing? She died a horrible death! In my arms, for God's sake! I loved her, do you hear me?! I loved her with every cell in my body, and she loved me! She helped me become someone I never thought I was capable of being. But you wouldn't understand that, would you? All you've ever cared about is your status, and the adoration of the crowd!"

"Don't you speak to me that way, young lady! I am your mother!"

"Biology, mother! It's just biology! You never cared about me, and don't for a second think I wasn't aware of that! I was your little legacy, and when I failed, it was all about you! Your disappointment! Your loss of another chance to keep your name in lights! It didn't matter that I was half dead from trying so hard to be just like you! To meet your exacting standards! I'm surprised you even bothered to have a child, knowing it would probably end your precious career!"

Monica was livid now, beyond reason or benevolence, her face flushed and contorted. "Oh, believe me, my dear, it was not my idea. Your father wanted the legacy, not me. A boy, that's what you were supposed to be! For him, not for me! And it appears he got closer than he thought with you, his perverted daughter. Having sex with women! You disgust me! You are not my child!"

"Get out! I hate you! Get out of my house!"

Monica Lagacé stood completely still as the barest hint of regretful sorrow flickered across her eyes, before they hardened to chips of emerald ice. Her voice became deathly calm.

"Consider what you are doing, Evon, before you make this decision final. I came here to salvage the mess you've made of your life. If I leave now, under these conditions, neither your father nor I will be back, ever again. You will be written out of our lives, and you will not be welcome in our home. Other than the small trust you already have, which I sincerely hope you've invested wisely, you will lose everything."

Evon felt as though she was trapped in a nightmare. Her life was over as she knew it. Vic was dead, and her parents may as well be. She couldn't reverse the path she was on, nor change the person she was for the sake of conditional love and an inheritance. Living without real love was not an option. She'd rather not live.

"I don't want or expect anything from you anymore. Keep your money and your prejudices. I want no part of either. Please leave." The words were outwardly calm, but inside Evon was shaking so badly, she felt physically ill.

"Very well. I will no longer continue to worry about you, Evon. Never forget that this was your choice." And with those words, Monica Lagacé walked out of her daughter's life.

Evon watched the door close, then ran to the bathroom and threw up.

Rae had been wandering around her condo in a stupor ever since Evon had gone home. She felt both dread and euphoria, alternating in time with her every heartbeat, and the contradiction was making her dizzy. She hadn't believed it was possible to feel this again - this lightening strike, as Sarah put it. To deny what she felt would be foolish, but to hope for the feelings to be mutual could be deadly. And could she expect Evon to deal with another set of emotions on top of the heap she was already trying to handle?

She walked out onto the balcony and leaned her forearms on the rail, oblivious to the cold breeze whipping in off the lake. She went over the hours she and Evon had spent together recently, and tried to get a sense of how the blonde felt about her. Evon had opened up and trusted her enough to share intimate and emotional details of her life with her family and with Vic. Physical boundaries had been crossed. Evon had no qualms any longer about opening her arms for a hug whenever she needed one, but there hadn't been much indication that she wanted more than that.

Maybe she just needs to know someone cares. Her damn parents sure as hell don't. She responded when I kissed her last Friday, but that may have had nothing to do with me directly. Jesus Christ.

She turned her wrist and looked at her watch.

She's been gone two hours and I already miss being around her. Hell, I missed her the minute the door closed. I can't let this slip through my fingers without giving it my best shot. Not now, not when I know there's something there. I can feel it so clearly.

Rae stood up and faced into the wind. "She's worth the risk."

Decision made, she went inside and picked up the phone.

Evon leaned on the sink and looked into the mirror. Staring back at her was an orphan - no siblings, no parents. Distant relatives were scattered around the world, but none with whom she had made any significant connection. She was completely, utterly, on her own.

What am I supposed to feel? Relief? Panic? Nothing. Nothing matters anymore.

She turned off the bathroom light, walked into her darkened bedroom, and curled into a fetal position on the bed. She lay there, staring into space, trying to feel something, anything but the disquieting numbness.

Her body jerked in startlement when the phone rang. She froze for a second, thinking it might be her mother. Or father. She leaned over to check the caller ID box on her bedside table.

Rae. Thank you, God.

She picked up the receiver. "Hi."

"Hi Evon. It's Rae."

"Yes, I'm glad it's you."

"Oh. Well, that's nice to hear. How are you?"

"I'm ok."

Something in Evon's tone made the hairs prickle on the back of Rae's neck. "You don't sound ok."


"Are you really ok, Evon? What's wrong? Did something happen?"

"My mother was here when I got home."

"I take it that's not good."

"My parents disowned me."


"They disowned me. They don't want an embarrassing lesbian daughter."

"Sweet Jesus! Are you sure? I mean, maybe she was just mad or something. People say things they don't mean when they're angry."

"No, I'm sure."

"Christ," Rae breathed into the phone. "You sound... calm, not ok, but calm. How do you feel about this?"

"I don't really know. I guess... I don't know. Tired, I suppose. And numb. Empty, like I don't care anymore."

A shiver of panic ran up Rae's spine as her memory flashed to Marilyn's suicide in the face of her parent's ostracism.

"I care, Evon! Don't... I mean, can I come over?"

A spark of gentle gratitude and love for her new friend warmed the chill in Evon's heart, staving off the darkness surrounding her. "Are you sure? I feel like I've done nothing but impose on you, Rae. I don't want to keep dumping my baggage on your shoulders."

"Yes, I'm sure. And you're not imposing at all. Besides, I offered, right? I wouldn't offer if I didn't want to help."

"Thank you, Rae. You're a good friend. I... don't want to be alone right now."

The hitch in Evon's voice burned a wound in Rae's heart, and she felt the unfamiliar sting of tears at all the pain this young woman had suffered.

"You'll never be alone, Evon. Not as long as I'm around." She took a deep breath to calm the wavering in her voice. "Now you just hold tight for a few minutes until I get there. Eleven forty Victor, right?"

"Yes, the upstairs flat. It's the door on the left when you come up the front steps."

"Ok, got it. Have you eaten?"

"I'm not really hungry, Rae. My stomach's pretty upset."

"Then I'll bring soup or something. And flat ginger ale. It works for an upset stomach."

"Ok. Thank you."

"No problem. Alright, I'm on my way. And Evon?"


"Just... I'm on my way, ok? It'll just be a few minutes."

"I'll be waiting."

Rae rang the doorbell and saw the hallway light illuminate the young blonde as she came down the stairs. She was dressed in a thick, terry bathrobe and looked like she'd been crying.

"Hi. Sorry it took a few extra minutes. I stopped at the market on Queen."

The tall woman had rummaged quickly through her cupboards after hanging up the phone and realized she had no soup. In fact, she had next to nothing edible in the condo except leftovers in styrofoam carryout containers and fruit in the refrigerator. Cursing her domestic incompetence, she grabbed a two liter bottle of ginger ale and lodged it between the seats in her car, cracking the seal to release the fizz. Weaving her way through downtown rush hour traffic, she squealed into the grocery parking lot and raced through the small store, grabbing cans of soup, saltines, bananas, and as an afterthought, microwave popcorn. She prayed that the cops were busy elsewhere as she ran a few amber lights and scared a number of work weary pedestrians.

"That's ok. It didn't take you that long."

Evon looked up at Rae with sad eyes and opened her arms. The tall woman dropped her bags and set the bottle on the step. She gathered the smaller woman close and gave her a long, tender hug. "How are you feeling?"

"Better now. Thank you for coming." Evon released her hold and looked down at the bags Rae had brought in. "You really didn't have to go to all this trouble."

Rae bent down slightly and grasped both Evon's hands in hers, capturing her gaze. "It was no trouble. At all. Honestly. I'm more than happy to do it. Believe me, if I didn't want to, I wouldn't be here." She leaned over and gave Evon a soft kiss on the cheek. "Ok?"

"Ok, I believe you. I'm glad you're here."

"Me too."

Evon led the way upstairs and they carried the sacks into the kitchen, setting them on the counter.

"Would you like me to warm some soup for you? It's about the only thing I can do safely, other than scrambled eggs."

The blonde smiled for the first time since she'd arrived home that afternoon. She didn't think a small white lie would do too much harm. Her stomach rebelled at the thought of any food, but she didn't want to hurt Rae's feelings. "Actually, while I was waiting for you, I managed to get down a little oatmeal, but I couldn't eat much. Maybe a bit later?"

Rae narrowed her eyes and smiled at the deception. "You're lying to me, you sneak. But I'll let it go this time. I do insist on a glass of ginger ale though, ok? Really, it'll settle your stomach."

"Ok, ginger ale, but that's all."

"Good. Glasses?"

Evon pointed at the appropriate cupboard and watched as Rae poured two glasses. "You're going to drink flat soda too? I have other things here."

"No, that's fine. My gut's been acting up a bit lately too. Must be sympathy pangs." The tall woman turned and handed Evon one of the glasses. "I brought you a treat. Popcorn."

"Actually, that sounds good. Popcorn is pretty benign."

"Terrific. I just need a big bowl."

Popcorn and soda in hand, they headed into the living room. Rae noticed that the apartment was dark except for the kitchen and the flicker of a television from down the hall in what she assumed was Evon's bedroom.

"Do you mind if I just give you the short tour this time? I was laying down, and honestly, I'd feel better if I could again. We could watch a movie since we didn't last night."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever you'd like to do is fine with me."

"Ok, bathroom is there, and my bedroom is here. I'll show you the rest another time." Evon headed for the bed and crawled onto it, above the covers, leaning back on pillows stacked against the headboard.

Rae stood awkwardly, not sure where Evon intended her to sit. She started towards the futon in the corner, but realized she wouldn't be able to see the tv from there. "I promise I'll behave if you let me share your bed."

"Oh. Yes, of course. Sorry, I thought..." Evon had grown so comfortable with Rae, and her mind had taken such a beating in the last few days, that she didn't even think twice about inviting the woman into her bed. All she knew was that tonight, she needed to be physically close to someone warm, and she craved the security she felt in the tall woman's presence.

"No more apologies, remember?" Rae smiled at her and placed the bowl in Evon's lap. She took off her boots and socks and climbed up next to Evon, settling in until their shoulders were touching. Damn, she looks so small in that bathrobe, so vulnerable. She doesn't deserve any of this crap. Fucking assholes. Rae felt her protective instinct kick in full force and she lifted her left arm, gazing at Evon with the question in her eyes.

The blonde smiled gratefully and snuggled close, moving the bowl to rest on Rae's thighs. They sat in silence for a while, eating popcorn and watching the rest of the evening news. When the credits rolled, Evon picked up the remote and started flipping channels.

"Anything in particular you'd like to watch?"

"Nope, I'm content with just about anything. Damn, I didn't think about it. I could have brought something with me from home. If you tell me what you want to see, I can run down to the video store."

"No, I'd rather you stayed here. I have three HBO channels. Surely there's got to be something on one of those."

"Evon, we don't have to watch anything. We can just listen to the stereo if you'd prefer, or talk."

"Ok, let's turn this off. If you could hand me that other remote..." Evon hit the power button and a five disc mini system came to life in the corner of the room. "I think "drag" is in there. Do you like kd?" She turned the volume up a notch as the singer's pure voice crooned "The Air That I Breathe".

"Oh yeah. What's not to like?" Rae grinned. "She kicks ass in concert. Myself and a few friends took a road trip west and saw her at the Chicago Theater. Women were throwing their bras up on stage. It was great. This gal yells at her from the balcony, "I love you, kd!", and kd goes, "Stand in line, baby." Too funny. She's a terrific performer."

"I saw her at Pine Knob in Detroit. I like that place. Saw Santana there too."

"No shit! When? I went there for the Supernatural tour last fall."

"It was a while ago, when I was in college." Evon fell silent for a moment. "Rae, do you believe in fate?"

"Yeah. Fate. Destiny. Whatever you want to call it. I have to believe some things happen for a reason, otherwise... but I don't think we're like puppets on a string. I mean, we make choices. I think fate presents us with certain situations or opportunities, and then it's up to us to decide what to do with them." Like now. Like us. "Why do you ask?"

"It's just... I don't know. I feel like I'm being punished or something. I loved Vic so much and she was taken from me just as we were starting our lives together. And now this with my parents. I know I wasn't the best daughter, but I didn't give them any major trouble. God, you'd swear I committed murder, the way she acted!"

Rae's arm tightened convulsively around Evon's shoulder.

"I understand that some people can't accept homosexuality, but they disowned their only child, Rae. I just don't understand how that could happen. I'm an orphan now, and I have to believe it's for a reason."

Rae squeezed her eyes shut and laid her cheek against the golden blonde hair. "We're orphans together then."

"Did your parents know about you?"

"Yeah, I knew very young that I was gay. Really young. And so did they. We never discussed it though. They didn't want to hear the words. But they accepted my friends into their home, reluctantly mind you, and thankfully never made it hard on me. I think they believed that if my preference wasn't verbally acknowledged, it would somehow go away. Over the years, they realized I wasn't going to change, and they knew I'd be the one to walk away if they tried to stop me from being who I was.
I wasn't a typical only child. I was pretty independent, and we weren't a close family. They fought a lot and I hated it. Hated my mother's bitchiness and my father's weakness. The supposed experts say that parents should stay together for the sake of the kids, but I'm here to tell you they're wrong. It was hell living with them.
I left six months after I turned seventeen and never looked back. I mean, I stayed in contact, and I'd see them once a year or so, but that was all. Unless they needed money. Then I'd hear from them.
They're both gone now, so it doesn't really matter. My friends are my family. It was strange that day though, when Mom passed away. Dad had been gone for a few years already, but I remember feeling this weird sense of relief and terror wrapped together, knowing I was completely alone in the world."

Rae didn't realize it, but telling her story was the best thing she could have done for Evon. The blonde's raw nerves were soothed by the low, vibrant voice, and by the knowledge that she was not unique in her loss, that there were others who understood her pain. Yet another thing that draws me to her. She makes me believe that everything is going to be alright. She understands me, and she isn't running away. "Thank you for telling me about your parents. I know it must be painful."

"Not really. It used to be, but not anymore. I learned that you can't live trying to meet everyone else's expectations. You'll spend your life miserable trying to be something you aren't, sacrificing yourself until there's nothing left inside."

"Yeah, I know. It's just hard to believe that parents can walk away like mine did."

"Maybe they'll come around."

"Maybe." Evon drew a long breath, quivering with emotion. "I'm so tired of feeling sad all the time. I am so damn sick and tired of it. I want to be happy again before I forget what it feels like."

Rae set the bowl on the floor and put both arms around the small woman, holding her tight. "Then let's plan some fun things together. We'll go out and I'll introduce you to some of my friends. Good people. You'll enjoy yourself, I promise."


They sat quietly, listening to the soft music, and after a while, Rae felt Evon's breathing even out as the exhausting afternoon took its toll on the young woman. Rae was content to hold her as long as she'd let her.

Rae awoke with a start, and took a few seconds to get her bearings in the semi darkness. The glowing neon numbers of the bedside alarm read 11:30pm. She looked at the blonde in her arms. In her sleep, Evon had climbed almost atop her bed companion, left leg slung over the tall woman's hips, arm bent with her hand resting above Rae's heart, and her forehead pressed against Rae's cheek.

There had been no nightmares; Rae would have woken up. She always slept lightly when there was another presence in bed with her. She turned her head and touched her lips to Evon's temple as the small woman stirred and stretched, pressing the length of her body along Rae's. The intense jolt of desire that coursed unexpectedly through the tall woman caused her limbs to jerk, waking Evon.

"You're still here," Evon murmured.

"Yeah, I'm still here." Rae felt slightly breathless as she attempted to calm her body.

"I slept really well. Better than I have in a long time. Thank you for staying with me. What time is it?" Evon lifted her shoulders and leaned across Rae to see the clock, then looked at her intently as she felt the pounding heartbeat beneath her hand. The blue eyes flicked back and forth, avoiding the contact that would reveal her desire.

Realization dawned on Evon as she read Rae's behavior. "Oh." She looked down at her fingers splayed across the broad chest. "I didn't know..."

"Evon, I... " Rae felt like she should apologize, like she had betrayed the friendship they had been cultivating for weeks. Evon didn't need this complication, not now, not yet. "I just... we're friends, Evon, beyond anything else, and that's the most important thing." Let her know but don't scare her. "Just know that if you're ever ready for... "

The blonde pressed her fingertips to the soft lips. "You're right. I'm not ready yet for... anything serious. I'm... "

"It's ok. Please don't think I... "

"Rae, please. Let me finish before you say anything else." The dark head nodded. "I'm afraid, Rae. I know she's gone, but I don't know yet how much of me she took with her. Do you understand?" Another nod. "So I don't know if I have enough to offer someone else. And if there isn't enough, I don't know that I'd survive losing... again." Evon laid her palm softly on Rae's cheek and captured her gaze. "I've been so afraid that I'd scare you away with my screwed up life. And you've been such a wonderful friend. I didn't know if I'd have the chance to tell you this, but you've become an anchor for me, and selfishly, I don't want to lose that."

"You won't, " came the whispered reply, warming Evon's heart.

The blonde laid her head back down on the strong shoulder. "Thank you." She drew a deep breath. "I know you want me to stop apologizing all the time, but I owe you an explanation for something."

"What's that?"

"Friday night. My God, it seems like weeks ago now." Evon's voice turned quietly reflective. "So much has happened since then, so much inside me." There was a long beat of silence while she contemplated the subtle shift in her awareness, unexpected but welcome. She felt wiser somehow, and more at peace surprisingly, given the recent events. Something had settled inside her, and she knew she owed it partly to the woman beside her. "I wanted to say I'm sorry for leaving so abruptly."

"That's ok. I understand now."

"No, I really want to explain this. When we... kissed, I felt so guilty, like I was betraying Vic, and I lost it. I mean, I've accepted that she's gone, but so much of who I am is tied with her memory. Letting go is so hard." She felt Rae's arm tighten gently around her. "That doesn't mean... " She hesitated, not just knowing, but feeling the implications of her forthcoming words.

"Mean what, honey?"

Evon felt a rush in her chest at the endearment. She leaned up on her elbow and looked into Rae's eyes. "It doesn't mean that I don't desire you. I miss being with someone, feeling their skin next to mine, and I feel so close to you. I trust you, but I don't know if I have anything that... "

Her words were halted by the pressure of soft lips against hers, and this time, despite the trepidation she felt, she didn't pull away. The kiss was tentative, but sweet and loving, and Evon felt the pull in her belly. She deepened the contact and her hips surged of their own volition against Rae's thigh. She abandoned herself to the tremendous longing and allowed her body to take over. God, she wanted this! She wanted this handsome woman lying beneath her so much, wanted to feel the physical sensations she had gone so long without.

Rae slipped her fingers into the golden hair and held Evon's head gently. Her body was screaming for this beautiful angel in her arms, and her heart was pounding with the effort it took to let Evon dictate the pace. This felt so right to her, so much more than the sex she'd been having for years with other women. When Evon slid her tongue into her mouth and pressed into her, a low groan eased from her throat.

The sound of Rae's desire sent Evon's body spiraling. She wrapped her arms around the woman's shoulders and pulled her over and on top of her. Breaking the intense kiss, she tilted her head back, guiding Rae's lips to the soft skin of her neck and shoulders. She cried out at the gentle suction and turned her head, placing tiny kisses on the side of Rae's face and nipping at her earlobe. "I know it's you, Rae. Please make love to me."

The gentle affirmation almost overwhelmed Rae, and she recognized the request for the gift that it was. She held the slender woman close for a long moment, then placed a reverent kiss upon her lips. She loosened the tie of Evon's bathrobe and slid the material aside, revealing the dancer's naked body. And her breath caught, as even the dim lighting couldn't hide the beauty of her athletic, feminine form. Rae's fingertips traced a slow path across the blonde's collarbone, down her chest to the swell of her full breasts, in between and down the valley of her rippling abdomen to her navel. She spread her hand and smoothed the curve of Evon's hip down to the toned thigh. "You're incredible. I've never seen a more beautiful body in my life." Rae breathed the words like a prayer.

Evon relaxed under the soft caress, any apprehension she was feeling dispelled by Rae's words. She watched the woman's expression and smiled at the appreciation she saw there. Taking Rae's face in her hands, she pulled her down into another deep, searing kiss, driving their passion higher. Long, silky black hair fell into her face when Evon broke away, and she pushed it gently back over Rae's shoulder.

"You were right, you know," she said breathlessly. "You should cut this."

"Think so?" Rae whispered into her ear as she traced the outline with her tongue.

"Yes. You'd be even more devastatingly handsome with short hair. You have such a beautiful face."

"Evon, the way I feel right at this moment, I'd shave my head for you if you asked." And I'll worry about what comes next in the morning.

The blonde smiled and pushed Rae back onto the bed, straddling her hips. She let the robe slide off her shoulders and tossed it on the floor, then started unbuttoning Rae's heavy twill shirt. Halfway through she stopped and bent down to place a kiss between the naked breasts. Gasping as her nipples grazed the coarse cloth, she quickly unfastened the rest and ran her palms down the sleek, muscular torso. When she slid the hardened nipples between her fingers, Rae's back lifted from the bed and her hands tightened on Evon's thighs.

The sight of the dark beauty arching into her brought back every vivid dream she'd had of making love with this woman, and she cried out Rae's name, grinding her clit into the rough denim beneath her, releasing a flood of warmth. She took Rae's hand and guided it between her legs, lifting up to give her access. As long fingers started stroking the wet folds, she leaned forward on her hands and moaned, "Oh God, yes! It's been so long."

Every nerve in Rae's body was tingling, her senses on overload. She focused on her fingertips, on the sensation of gliding through the slippery velvet. Her mouth watered at the sight of perfect breasts swaying inches from her face, and she lifted her upper body, abdominal muscles taut and quivering as she captured a rosy nipple with her lips and teased it with her tongue. She felt Evon's hips buck and the blonde cried out her name again. Her stomach muscles started to burn from the strain and she sat up fully, releasing the nipple and wrapping her arm around the slender waist, never breaking the rhythm of her hand.

Evon draped her arms around Rae's shoulders and seized her lips in an passionate kiss, moaning into her mouth and rocking her hips against the pressure. The heel of Rae's hand massaged her clit, driving her closer to the edge. "Please go inside me. I need to feel you." Two long fingers penetrated and curled inside, and she lost the strength in her legs. "Oh God." She fell slowly backwards, knees still bent, onto the bed between Rae's outstretched legs, opening herself up completely. "More. I need more." Her hands clutched at denim as she lifted her hips higher.

Rae marveled at the dancer's flexibility and added a third finger, now able to stroke deeply while she rolled the swollen clit with her thumb. Slicking the fingers of her free hand through the glistening blonde thatch, she circled Evon's nipple with the moisture and squeezed the taut bud until she felt the pulsing begin.

"Faster, Rae."

She increased her pace, pushing deeper as she watched Evon's face, eyes squeezed tightly together, mouth open as her breathing turned ragged.

"Come on, sweet girl. Come for me."

"Oh God, Rae, yes! I'm coming! Nnngh!" The orgasm slammed through Evon's body in violent tremors, her hips lifting and heaving over and over again, meeting Rae's strokes, as spasm after spasm racked her small form. "Oh God, I can't... !" Another orgasm tore into her and she gasped for breath. "Stop, baby, you have to stop." She reached down and held Rae's wrist, stilling her motion as the tremors continued. "Ohmigod. Oh God."

Rae pulled out gently when the contractions slowed, and lifted Evon's knees, straightening out the limp legs. Wriggling out from underneath the shaking woman, she lay down and gathered the blonde into her arms, rocking her slowly. "You are so beautiful. Thank you." She smoothed the hair away from Evon's damp forehead and kissed her cheek. "How's your stomach feel?"

Evon laughed weakly. "What stomach?"

Grinning, Rae traced the muscled outline of the body part in question. "This perfect masterpiece right here."

"Oh, that one. Fine, I think. I can't feel it. My body's numb from the neck down." She reached up and patted her face. "Uh, no, I take that back. My face is numb too. Jesus, Rae! That was so good!" She blew out a long breath. "Mmmm. Ok blood, start pumping elsewhere. Anytime now."

Rae laughed and squeezed Evon tightly. "You're fun, you know that?"

"Yeah? Gimme a sec, and I'll be even funner when I get the feeling back in my oxygen deprived extremities. My brain seems to be working though. I'm using big words."

Shaking her head in amusement, Rae leaned up on one elbow and smiled down at the spent woman. "I told you we'd do some fun things together."

"And you are true to your word, Rae Crenshaw." Energy returning, Evon sat up and rolled her head around on her shoulders. "Mmm, yum. That was definitely yummy." Turning around, she tugged at the waistband of Rae's jeans. "These have to go. I will admit your ass looks delicious wrapped in 501s, but they still have to go." She pushed Rae back onto the bed, straddling her hips once again, and started slowly unbuttoning the fly. She faltered for a brief second and closed her eyes as Vic's face, wanton with desire, flashed across her mind. No, don't do this to me, please. I will always love you, but I want this. It feels good to touch someone again. I want her. Please. Evon shuddered as the image disappeared.

Rae misinterpreted the hesitation as uncertainty, and she took the small hands in her own. "It's ok, honey. You don't have to do this." She started to sit up, feeling a mixture of anxiety and anger at herself for giving in to her libido when she knew Evon wasn't ready.

The blonde placed her hands on the broad shoulders and forced Rae back down. "No, I want this. I want to make love to you. Trust me, ok? I'm fine, honestly." Evon leaned down and planted a scorching kiss on Rae's lips, leaving no room for doubt or protest. Their tongues tangled as Evon moved down to lay beside the tall woman, and slid her hand inside Rae's jeans. The underwear was soaked and she could feel the engorged tissue, swollen with need, through the thin cotton. Evon mumbled around their lips, "Help me take these off."

Rae lifted her hips and pushed the jeans and underwear down, kicking them off to the floor as she rolled over and pinned the smaller woman beneath her body. She searched Evon's face, looking for signs of confusion or indecision. "Are you sure? I don't want to..."

"Yes. Believe me, please."



Blue eyes locked onto green, seeing surety and desire. "Ok, I believe you."

"Thank you. For caring so much." Evon kissed the tip of her nose. "Now Ms Always on Top, turn over before I hafta get rough with ya." The blonde bent her leg and slipped it between Rae's, pressing hard against her center. "God, you're so wet." She raised her hips, grunted, and pushed with all her might, flipping the tall woman onto her back. "Gotcha."

"You're a little mighty mouse, aren't ya?"

"Yeah. Don't forget it, handsome." Evon lay fully atop the muscular body, rhythmically pressing her thigh against the distended clitoris as she kissed the dark woman senseless. She shifted her attention to Rae's breasts when she felt the woman's breathing quicken, and alternated between both nipples, twirling her tongue and biting gently until she heard the tortured groans.

"Evon. Jesus, baby, that feels so good."

The uncertainty she had expressed to Denise about whether she could please this experienced woman didn't enter Evon's mind. Rae's writhing responses were genuine and incredibly sexy, and the blonde felt them deep in her gut. She moved further down the firm body, licking her way to the dark patch of curly hair, feeling a line of slick moisture coat her belly. Spreading the long legs further apart, she could see from the reddened, engorged labia how close Rae already was. She wanted to prolong the pleasure, so she slid her tongue carefully through the folds, tasting the sweetness, not applying too much pressure.

"Ahhh, yes. Yes. Harder, baby. Please."

"Not yet. Soon though. Relax for me." Evon's boldness surprised even herself. Making love to this woman felt so right.

Rae consciously forced her body to calm, and concentrated on the gentle lapping between her legs. Her relaxed state lasted all of two minutes before she began to feel the insistent pull of the impending climax. "Evon! I can't hold it much longer!"

The blonde plunged her tongue in as deeply as she could, then withdrew and focused on Rae's clit, quivering and begging for attention, as she teased the woman's anus with the tip of her finger.

"Yes, fuck yes! I'm gonna come for you now! Aw, Jesus!" Rae's climax was explosive, and her body clenched and shook as Evon clung to her hips, riding the intense orgasm with her tongue pressed firmly against the pulsating clit. Rae's fingers clutched at blonde hair as she jerked and trembled with the strong aftershocks. "Sweet Jesus! Evon, let go, baby, please." The long body flopped to the bed, shaking, and she drew the small woman up into her arms, both of them slick with perspiration. "Ah, God! That was good."

"Mmm, you taste wonderful." Evon gave Rae a minute to catch her breath, then leaned in for a deep kiss, savoring her success. She was ready to go again, her desire elevated to demanding proportions after bringing Rae to such heights, but the dark woman looked so wiped out, she didn't have the heart to ask. She slipped her fingers discreetly to her crotch and massaged her clit as she continued to kiss Rae, trying to disguise her moans.

Rae recovered quickly when she sensed what the blonde was doing. "Oh no. As much of a turn on that is for me, I want in on this action." Moving Evon up to straddle her shoulders, she wriggled down on the bed and placed a pillow beneath her head. "Ok now, keep going with what you were doing, baby." She held Evon's hips, watching the blonde's fingers move inches from her face. "Yeah, that's it." Spreading tight butt cheeks, she tickled at the exposed orifice, enjoying the pleasurable reaction.

"God, feels nice. Mmm. Keep doing that." Evon rocked her hips, working her clit faster. "I want your mouth, Rae."

"Ok, baby. Move your hand." She pulled Evon closer and groaned as she tasted the copious fluid flowing from the blonde's center. Sliding her tongue through the folds, she grazed the clit with her teeth, causing a shudder to ripple through the small woman. She sucked and pulled, driving her tongue deep, feeling the walls as they began to contract.

"I'm close, Rae, I'm close." Evon threw her head back as the combined sensations from both ends pushed her over the edge, with flashes of light exploding behind her eyelids. "Rae! Yes!"  Her body vibrated in ecstasy and she collapsed onto her side, feeling the tingles down to her toes.

Rae scooted up next to her and they lay together quietly for a long time, wrapped in each other's arms.

Evon spoke first. "I'm really glad you stayed." She turned her head and gave Rae a deep, heartfelt kiss. "You certainly made it an evening to remember. Was it a little plot to take my mind off all my woes?"

The tall woman leaned up on her elbow and traced the outer edges of Evon's breasts. She thought for a few seconds before meeting the blonde's eyes with a serious expression. "No, there was no plot. I was worried about you. I didn't plan for this to happen."

"Do you regret that it did?"

Rae knew in her gut that at no point during their lovemaking did they make that indefinable connection she longed for from this woman. Evon had maintained an emotional distance that Rae understood only too well. Did she regret this? Maybe. Yes, if it meant that this was an indication of all she could hope for from Evon - friendship and sex on the side - because+ !!E}@zфgA%/>nyPAGAj*VM!WR2e+D|* ֌ǚu!vۄ(HNhe[=(S2^rsE +a#qSs#P ,"s5L FǧAD۸,R04/tI۶WuޑNOJmD-$got b)Z2W .I'(w9Q/uTľH\mV<~5o{-,dyβ.*0N?:İ=).h0IK  @*ߴח j/'Ҋ)Yd$ ?TRXB8hDuMY6!QSLhV,,ר_2ÛP>jV [nao#|4v,an understand that far inside her damaged heart was a new fragment of hope that, with Rae, she could love again. She buried her face in the broad shoulder and wept.

Rae hugged her close, errant tears leaking from her own eyes. Eventually, Evon's quiet sobs subsided and Rae leaned back, cupping the sweet face in her hand. "Tell me why you're crying, baby. Please. I need to understand."

Evon reached up and traced the wet line down Rae's cheek. "You're crying too." Her quavering voice held a note of wonder. "Why?"

Turning her head, Rae kissed the fingertip. "I've discovered that when you hurt, I hurt too."

"Oh." Evon thought it was the most endearing thing she'd ever heard. "That might not be good for you, because I hurt a lot."

"That's ok. I don't mind."

They smiled at each other.

"Rae, I don't regret this. I'm sorry that you do, but I don't. I needed you tonight, and you were there for me. I don't know what's going to happen between us yet, so I'm sorry for being selfish."

"Sweetheart, the only thing I regret is this - that you've had to go through all this pain. You didn't deserve any of it."

"So you don't regret what happened tonight?"

"No, not as long as I know that if you're ever ready to give someone a chance again, you'll keep me in mind."

"How could I not? You're irresistible."

"And you, young lady, are incredible."

"Good thing we like each other then, huh?" The twinkle had returned to the pretty emerald eyes.

Rae laughed joyously. "Yeah, I guess so, you silly thing."

Evon reached her arms around Rae's neck and hugged her tightly. "Will you stay 'til morning? I'll set the alarm so you won't be late for work." She smiled. "And I have bananas for breakfast now."

"Yes, I'll stay."

"Because you want to?"

"No, because of the bananas, goofy. Yes, I want to."

"Good. C'mere then."

They crawled beneath the sheets and Rae curled closely against Evon's back, her arms around the slender body. The blonde took Rae's hand and drew it up between her breasts, kissing each finger.

"Goodnight, Rae. Sweet dreams."

"Night, baby. You too."

The last conscious thought they had before drifting off was of each other.

Part 12
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