Part 12 - Conclusion - See disclaimers in Part 1
Klaus spun the chair around to face Evon. A freshly shorn Rae grinned up at her. "So. You like?"
The blonde folded her arms across her chest and with a frown, pressed her index finger against her lips. She circled the chair slowly, examining the drastic change. Behind Rae, she gave Klaus a wink and slid her fingertips through the very short hair on the back of the long neck, delighting in the shiver that ran through the tall woman. Leaning close to Rae's newly exposed ear, she whispered, "Stunning. Absolutely stunning."
Rae blew out the breath she'd been holding. "Shit! I thought you were going to say you didn't like it!"
"I love it. Klaus, you're a genius."
The hairdresser beamed. "I think you look fabulous, if I do say so myself. Jesus, girlfriend, if I didn't like men, I'd be getting a woody right now."
Evon cracked up. Rae scowled and blushed.
Klaus held up the ziploc bag containing well over a foot of thick, black hair. "Now, are you sure you don't want the money? They'll pay beaucoup bucks for this."
"No, it goes to the cancer center. You'll take care of that for me?"
"Absolutely, honey. There'll be some happy ladies in a few weeks."
"That's what I want."
"You got it, sister."
The door chimed, and Klaus left to greet his next appointment.
Evon reached out and fluffed the shock of longer hair over Rae's forehead. "Are you really happy with it? It's quite a change for you."
Rae spun the chair back around to face the mirror. Turning her head slowly from side to side, she assessed the radical difference from an hour ago. The hairdresser had taken some time to determine exactly what she wanted before starting the cut, then had carefully mapped out his plan to preserve as much length as possible for the wigs he was creating for local chemo patients. The final result was a short, stylish cut, tapered closely up the back, over the ears, with a moderate length left on top and feathered back on the sides. "It sure is different. You know, I've had long hair my whole life, but always wondered what it would be like to cut it all off. It's gonna take a bit of getting used to. I like it though."
Evon thought Rae looked breathtaking, and for a fleeting second, wondered if, in suggesting the haircut, she was trying to recreate an image of Vic. But no, she loved the look of short hair on women, loved running her fingers through it, and loved how it gave the striking woman that handsome, boyish look that caused butterflies in her stomach. "Well, if you end up hating it, at least you know it'll grow back. You didn't do this just because I mentioned it, did you?"
"No, like I said, I've been thinking about it for a while. It took so long to dry, and it was really heavy when I ran. You just gave me the nudge I needed to take the plunge." She grinned wickedly at Evon's reflection in the mirror. "Doesn't hurt that you like it so much though."
"Mmm, you were gorgeous before. Now you're gorgeous and studly."
"Glad you think so. You're pretty sexy yourself."
Evon blushed. "Thanks. Shall we go out tonight and celebrate your new weight loss?"
"Haha! Yeah, I'm probably five pounds lighter now. You want to go to the bar?" Rae was surprised.
Evon hadn't wanted to go back to the bar at all since the confrontation with her mother. She told Rae that her parents had discovered where she had been going, but hadn't elaborated with any further details, and the tall woman knew things had not been going well at work for her either. Madame Plante, the ballet mistress, had apparently become quite cold and confrontational towards her, and Rae felt partially responsible, given that she had taken it upon herself to call in sick for Evon that fateful day weeks ago.
"Yeah, I think so. I'd like to go out, and I'm not going to worry about my parents or work tonight. So, you handsome thing, how would you and your new hair like to take me out for an evening of dancing and socializing?"
"You betcha, baby."
They walked out to the front desk of Klaus's tiny salon and waited. The hairdresser was shampooing his next client, and when he saw them, he lifted a soapy hand and waved. "On the house, Rae."
"No, Klaus. I'll pay for it. You did a great job."
"Thanks, honey, but you just donated about five hundred bucks worth of hair. The least I can do is cut it off for free."
"I said get outta here, girlfriend! Buy me a drink the next time we see each other at the bar."
"Alright already." Rae discreetly slipped a twenty between the pages of his appointment book. "Ok, we'll see ya. Thanks again."
"You're welcome. Have a great weekend."
"You too. Bye."
They walked out to the convertible and climbed in. Rae turned to Evon. "So, do you want to go get some dinner first? Then we can get to the bar early enough to get a table, if you'd like."
"Well, I'm going to wear what I have on, so I don't need to go home, but don't you want to shower and get all that hair off? When I get mine cut, the little hairs down my back make me crazy."
Rae rolled her shoulders, feeling the prickles inside her shirt. "Oh, you're right. It is itchy. This is a new experience for me. Ok, we can grab takeout and bring it back to my place?"
"We've got lots of time. We can swing by the market and I'll cook something while you're getting changed."
"Sounds good to me."
Evon had started preparing the salad while waiting for the pasta to boil when she heard Rae's voice floating over the sound of the shower. The blonde smiled, drying her hands on a dishtowel as she walked over to the bathroom door and leaned against it, listening to the familiar ballad, and the beautiful, melodic voice. Her eyes glistened as memories invaded her mind, of Vic sitting on the bathroom floor, listening to her sing, waiting with a clean, fluffy towel to dry her off. The intimate moments were the ones she missed most. Shoving the memories aside, she went back to the kitchen.
The two women had been spending a great deal of time together over the past eight weeks, and although they had slept in each other's arms a number of times, the night of lovemaking had not been repeated.
Rae had not sensed a change in Evon's emotional distance, so she had completely backed off, allowing the blonde to determine the pace of the relationship's progression. She had made herself available for Evon whenever she needed her, and had kept her promise of doing fun things, taking the small woman to Chaps with Andy, introducing them to her friends, and ensuring they both had an enjoyable night out. She had been cornered a few times by the guys who knew her well enough to recognize her attachment to Evon, as opposed to the other women they'd see her with, but they'd accepted her claim that she and the blonde were just friends. Amongst themselves, however, they agreed that the sweet, young woman had very obviously insinuated herself deeply into the normally stoic woman's heart.
They had taken long drives up north into cottage country to enjoy the fall colors, using the many hours in the car to learn more about each other. They ran together on the now deserted beach, always sprinting the last quarter mile, both women delighting in the amiable competition. And the loser always bought the banana splits. Evon complained good-naturedly that she was indeed going to go broke from constantly losing to Rae's long legged speed, so the tall woman compensated by treating her to numerous dinners at the many restaurants the city offered.
Rae had even taken her to visit with Richard and his family, wanting her to know this man who was such a dear friend. Evon and Janice had connected immediately, which was no surprise to Rae, given that they had remarkably similar personalities. When Richard dragged her out into the backyard with him, under the pretense of checking the steaks on the grill, he gave his tacit approval.
"So, she's the one, huh?"
"Yeah, she is."
"I can see it in your eyes. I never thought there'd be another after Sarah."
"Me neither, but she got in there without even trying."
"That's the way it's supposed to happen. That way, you know it's real."
"Well, we'll see what happens. She's been hurt pretty bad."
"Don't doubt it, Rae. You're in there. It's obvious from the outside, looking in. Give her time and she'll recognize what you mean to her."
"I hope so."
"You're welcome. I want to see you happy again. You know that, don't you?"
"Yeah, I know it."
They gave each other a heartfelt hug.
The two women grew closer, talking almost everyday on the phone, but by unspoken assent, the future was never a topic of conversation. Rae knew she was in love, and had Evon probed her own heart, she would have realized that the dark woman had become as indispensable to her as the air she breathed. But her emotions were still clouded with pain, and she dared not delve too deeply past the surface, knowing intrinsically that when and if her heart was ready, the awareness would be there.
Dotty opened the door wide and stood with her jaw unhinged as she watched the woman ascend the stairs. "Rae Crenshaw! Holy shit, you look fantastic! Wow! C'mere!" The bouncer engulfed the tall woman in a massive hug. "Where have you been?! Jesus! We all thought you'd run off and joined a convent or something!"
Rae extricated herself from the huge woman and grinned. "Thanks, Dotty. And Mel was supposed to let you know I was taking a bit of a hiatus."
"Yeah, but we thought a few weeks, not a coupla months! And what's up with the new do? Mind you, it looks terrific, but man, are they ever gonna be on you like stink on shit tonight! Not that they weren't before, but whooeee!"
Rae cleared her throat and gave the bouncer a warning glance. Stepping aside, she reached for Evon's hand and pulled her up beside her. "Dotty, this is my friend, Evon. I think you may have already met, nonetheless, Evon, Dotty."
The large woman stilled for a second, realizing her mistake, not having seen the small woman behind Rae. But she recovered quickly and grasped Evon's hand. "Oh, I remember you, young lady. Welcome back! Didn't see you behind the big thug here. Sorry 'bout that."
"No problem. Nice to see you again, Dotty."
"You too, love." The bouncer turned back to Rae and grasped her shoulders. "Ya look good. Really good. Now, g'wan in, you two, and have a nice time. Cover's on me tonight. I'm just so damn happy to see you back!"
"Thanks, Dotty. You too. Where's Mel?"
"Vacation. Two weeks in Orlando with her little nephew. Now g'wan!" She shooed them inside.
"Alright, we're going!"
The place wasn't crowded yet given the early hour, but as they made their way to the bar, Evon grinned at the number of women who came up to Rae, saying hello and commenting on her new appearance. She squeezed the tall woman's hand. "You're such a stud." And laughed as Rae shot her a withering look.
"Mother, have mercy! Look what the wind finally blew in!" The tiny bartender stood with her hands on her hips and tried to look pissed off. That lasted all of five seconds before she was out from behind the bar, giving Rae a hug, and grinning from ear to ear. "Wow! You look incredible! I love it!"
"Good to see you, Rach. Thanks. I just got it cut a few hours ago. You remember Evon, don't you?"
"I sure do. Terrific to see you again, Evon."
"Thanks, Rachel. It's nice to be back."
"So what can I get for you gals? The usuals?"
The blonde gaped at the small brunette. "I've been in here once. Are you going to tell me you remember what I drink?"
"Gin and tonic tall, with a lime."
Evon just looked at her, wide-eyed.
Rachel winked. "I never forget the pretty ones. And the gorgeous amazon here drinks blue light, but occasionally heads south of the border for a Corona. So what'll it be?"
Rae threw her head back and laughed. "Well, after that, we'll take our usuals. Sound good, Evon?"
The blonde nodded. "I'm impressed."
"Why, thank you. I do try. You gals gonna sit at the bar, or shall I bring them to a table?"
Evon looked up at Rae. "Let's get a table, ok?"
"Sure, honey, wherever you like."
The bartender covered her surprise at Rae's response by turning to head back behind the bar. "Ok, I'll bring them right out." With a faint smile, she watched the blonde tug a grinning Rae over to a table on the top level, back near the window.
The bouncer sidled over to the bar as Rachel prepared the drinks. "Whaddya think?"
"I think our resident bachelor is finally off the market."
"Yep. Looks that way to me. Explains where she's been for the last two months."
"Uh huh. New look, new attitude, calm, relaxed. She's even sitting in the back of the bar. All good, Dotty, all good."
"Bit her in the ass when she wasn't looking too, I'll bet."
"Yeah." The bartender smiled. "I guess there's hope for the rest of us yet then, eh?"
The bouncer smiled back. "I guess so."
"Jeez, feels like I haven't been here in a year." Rae lounged back in her chair and looked around as her fingers absently stroked the long necked beer bottle on the table. "Same crowd."
Evon watched her companion's eyes roam the bar. "I didn't realize you'd stopped coming down here. Any reason other than me taking up so much of your time?"
Blue eyes sparkled as Rae sat up and leaned forward, resting her forearms on the table. She gazed at Evon and smiled. "Nope. Time just flies when the company is exceptional, that's all."
"You're so sweet and charming." Evon reached up and ran her fingers lightly through Rae's hair. "I love that about you."
Rae sighed. "Not the usual descriptives people use when referring to me."
"Very complimentary, I assure you."
"Then I'll have to re-evaluate my opinion of those two terms. Thank you."
"You're welcome, sweetie."
Rae rolled her eyes and laughed. "Stop."
"Not if I can keep making you blush like that."
"Oh God." The dark woman groaned as Evon smiled.
"So tell me, Ms Crenshaw, do you normally attract this much attention everywhere you go?"
"Why? What do you mean?"
"Let's see, besides the many women who professed their joy at your return after the long absence, there is a rather cute, very petite young woman sitting two tables away, over your left shoulder, who is staring at you rather intently. Thankfully, she doesn't appear to be throwing any daggers my way, but you are definitely the object of her attention."
"I have no idea... " Rae turned around. "Amy!"
Evon grinned and shook her head as her date got up quickly and walked over to the tiny woman, bending low to give her a brief hug. She saw Rae lift her head and scan the bar, obviously looking for someone. The two women talked for a minute, then Rae nodded her head and came back to the table.
"That's Amy, Sarah's girlfriend. Would you like to meet them? I wanted to check with you first before inviting them over."
"Of course. I'd love to meet them, especially Sarah."
Rae had mentioned her first love many times, and it was very obvious to Evon that the feelings between them were still very strong. She was looking forward to talking with the woman who had stolen the heart of the reckless teenager so many years ago.
"Ok, I'll see if they want to join us."
Rae went back over to the table and after a brief conversation, helped Amy gather their things. As they walked towards her, Evon saw Sarah behind them, ascending the stairs with two Bloody Marys. She recognized her from the pictures in Rae's apartment, and was once again struck by the physical resemblance between herself and the older blonde woman.
"Evon, this is Amy. Amy, Evon."
"Hi Amy, it's a pleasure to meet you." The two women shook hands. "Please, have a seat. I'm glad you could join us."
Rae hung Sarah's jacket and purse on the vacant chair, and resumed her seat on Evon's left, while Amy took the chair to her right.
"It's nice to meet you too, Evon. Sarah is getting drinks. She'll be here in a minute. Ah, speak of the devil."
Amy jumped up to take the drinks from Sarah's hands when she saw the look of shock on her face. "I'll take those, honey. You look like you're about to drop them." The petite woman grinned as she took the glasses and leaned towards Evon. "This is going to be priceless."
"Rae Crenshaw! What have you done?!"
The tall woman stood up and held her arms out to her ex, who stepped forward and hugged her tightly, then kissed her.
"Do you like it?"
Sarah leaned back in Rae's embrace and ran her fingers through the short hair. "It's... what happened to all that beautiful, long hair?"
The dark woman looked crestfallen. "I donated it to the cancer center for wigs. You don't like it, huh?"
"Oh. No, I... what a worthy cause. And I do like it. You just look so different, that's all. I didn't think you'd ever cut it."
"It was time for a change."
Sarah looked into the crystal blue eyes and knew the statement referred to much more than just a haircut. "Well, you look gorgeous, as always." She stood on her tiptoes and gave Rae another kiss. "Now introduce me to this beautiful young woman I've never seen before."
"Sarah, this is my friend, Evon. Evon, Sarah."
The older blonde reached across the table and held Evon's hand as she searched her eyes. Evon? I thought it was Lana. "Wonderful to meet you, Evon."
"My pleasure, Sarah. I've heard a lot about you."
"Uh oh. Nothing embarrassing, I hope. Rae knows far too many of those stories."
Evon laughed as Sarah relinquished her hand and sat down. "Nothing yet, but she's not above a good bribe, I don't think."
Rae's eyes twinkled. "Hmm, I could be convinced to share a few tales from college, with the right motivation."
Amy and Evon grinned at each other and leaned forward eagerly.
Sarah glared at the dark woman menacingly, but the smirk gave her away. "Remember sweetheart, for every one of your little anecdotes, I have at least three, equally as delicious. You were the one always in trouble, not me."
Rae threw her hands up in surrender. "Okay! I promise, no embarrassing stories!" She winked at Evon. "I'll wait until she leaves."
All four women laughed, and the conversation flowed easily. Evon explained the nature of her job to the newcomers, who were fascinated by the unusual profession, while Amy ran on excitedly about the house she and Sarah had just recently moved into, how much they were looking forward to their first Christmas together in the new place, and how they were out this evening for a break from days on end spent moving and organizing.
Usually Sarah would have chimed in, adding her comments to Amy's, but she was content to observe for a while tonight. Her eyes flicked back and forth between Rae and Evon, not missing any of the gentle smiles or caring glances that passed between them. Her curiosity mounted as she wondered where this sweet creature had come from, but it wasn't difficult to see why Rae was so captivated. The young blonde was articulate and intelligent, and seemed very genuine. But, as a social worker, Sarah was trained to read people, and she could sense the melancholy that lurked beneath the gracious exterior. She wondered if Rae was aware of it. Never one to leave an intriguing situation alone, she decided to ask a few questions, and waited for a break in the conversation.
"So how did you two meet?"
Both Rae and Evon looked at her, then at each other, as if deciding who would relate the series of events that had brought them to this point. The tall woman didn't know how much Evon was willing to share, so she shrugged her shoulders, indicating that the blonde should tell the story.
Evon smiled at her, then Sarah. "It was rather coincidental, actually... " She told about seeing Rae on the beach, then at the bar, and afterwards at the ballet opening, but she left out the personal details. "So we've been hanging out together for the last few months, which has been really nice because I don't know many women in the community." Green eyes locked onto blue. "And I can't think of a more wonderful person to call my friend."
Sarah and Amy glanced at each other and smiled. The older woman murmured, "You won't get any arguments from us about that."
Just then, the DJ's voice came loudly through the speakers. "Welcome ladies, to Saturday night at The Rose. We'll start off with an hour or so of karaoke, then on to dancing until the wee hours. So get your requests in now while the gettin's good." She continued on with the drink specials, speaking into the cordless head mic while setting up the karaoke stand.
"God, I wish I could sing," Amy lamented.
"Oh honey, you can sing." Sarah put her arm around the petite woman's shoulders.
"You're only saying that because you love me."
"And your point?"
Amy slapped her hand. "Be nice. Rae, would you sing for us?"
"Yeah, Rae!" Both Sarah and Evon spoke simultaneously.
"Aw, guys, come on now. Besides, you should be asking Evon. She's great."
Amy looked at the blonde. "Really? I'd love to hear you sing. Both of you."
Sarah gave Rae her sweetest smile. "Come on, Rae, please?"
The tall woman flopped back in her chair and looked at all three pairs of eyes trained on her. She turned to Evon. "I will if you will."
"Yeah!" Amy jumped up and ran to get a songbook.
Rae grinned at Sarah. "She's a feisty little thing, isn't she?"
The older woman laughed. "She sure is. That's one of the reasons I love her so much. She keeps me young."
Evon signaled the waitress. "I think we're both going to need another drink for this."
When the server arrived at the table, Sarah pressed a twenty into her hand. "This round's on me. Whatever they're drinking and two more Bloody Marys, please."
Amy returned and plopped the huge binder on the table. "Do we get to choose?"
Rae pulled the book over between her and Evon and opened it up. "Not on your life. God only knows what you two would pick out."
The two women looked through the selections until Evon pointed at one. "That's what you were singing in the shower, isn't it? Do that one."
"Nooo, that's just a cheesy little country song."
Green eyes smiled at her. "But I love it."
Rae groaned. "Shit. Ok, I'll think about it, but only if you sing this one."
Evon glanced at the listing. "Oh, ok. I can do that one."
They filled out the request slips and Rae brought them up to the DJ. "Hey, Teri, how's it going?"
The DJ flipped the mic off. "Any better, there'd be two of me. How've you been, Rae? The haircut's great, by the way."
"Thanks." She handed over the two small squares of paper.
"Hey, alright! You're gonna sing. What pretty lady conned you into doing this?"
"Ha! You know me too well, girl."
"Considering you aren't drunk, there has to be some other major force behind it. And for you, that means a cute gal. Or two."
"Three friends, actually. Anyway, don't rush to put these on. We've got drinks waiting right now."
"No problem. I'll give you a few minutes."
Rae returned to the table to find the three women laughing loudly. "What's so funny?"
Sarah gasped. "Oh God, I was telling them about that ball hockey tournament up north when we took off with that massive Labatt's neon sign, remember?"
"Jesus! Like it was yesterday! Taught me not to take any more dares. I had visions of cops showing up on my doorstep for months afterwards."
Evon shook her head and grinned at the tall woman. "So, klepto, what did you do with it?"
"Shit, I got rid of that gaudy thing as soon as I moved. One of the guys was drooling over it when they were packing up my apartment, so I gave it to him as a tip. Thought the toothless bastard was gonna kiss me, he was so damn happy. Scared the hell outta me."
Amy laughed and choked on her drink, and Sarah pounded her on the back, chuckling.
Rae looked up and saw Teri waving at her. She nodded and poked Evon in the side. "You're up, babe."
"Me?! No, you go first."
The DJ announced Evon's name.
"Nope, you're all cued up. Now get up there and knock 'em out."
Rae leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "Don't be. You have an excellent voice."
"Thanks, handsome." She took a deep breath. "Performance jitters. Always get them. Ok, here goes."
"You'll do fine." Rae patted her on the butt and gave her a wink as she headed to the stage.
Sarah turned in her chair and leaned towards the dark woman. "Ok, what happened to Lana? I can't keep up with you, you know that?"
"Lana and I didn't work out." Rae tore her eyes away from Evon and faced her ex. "She didn't make my heart hammer."
"But Evon does?"
Sarah reached over and squeezed her arm. "Good. She seems really sweet."
"Don't get hurt."
"I'll try not to."
"You know I'm here if you need me."
The music started and the three women focused on Evon, her golden hair backlit by the stage lights, framing her flushed, youthful face. Her eyes were downcast as she began to sing the Fugees' remake of Killing Me Softly. The song fell easily from her lips, and the enraptured audience could see her confidence grow as she lifted her head, eyes closed, feeling the strength of the lyrics and the emotion behind them. When the last note faded, Evon opened her eyes and met Rae's. This time there were no tears, just a gentle smile of appreciation for the dark woman's love and support.
Amy jumped to her feet and whooped, applauding wildly. "Wow! That was terrific! She's great, Rae!"
"Yeah, isn't she, though." Rae stood up and gathered Evon in a warm hug when she returned to their table, whispering in her ear, "That was wonderful. Can I get a private show sometime?"
"Yes, you may, but only if you promise me one."
"It's a deal." The tall woman released the blonde as she heard her name announced, and headed to the stage. She said something to the DJ, who shook her head and grinned, then went to change the music.
"Ok, ladies, here's Rae, after a long absence from the stage, singing Toni Braxton's Spanish Guitar. It'll just take me a sec to cue it up, since Ms Thang changed her mind, just to mess with me, I'm sure."
Rae chuckled as the audience laughed. She settled on the barstool and felt a flutter of nervousness in her stomach, not having the benefit of alcohol induced courage. She peered through the growing mass of bodies and found Evon watching her intently. Focusing on the blonde's smiling face, she calmed and lifted the microphone, as the rest of the crowd faded from her view.
A smoky room, a small café
They come to hear you play
And drink and dance the night away
I sit out in the crowd
And close my eyes
Dream you're mine
But you don't know
You don't even know that I am there
I wish that I was in your arms
Like that Spanish guitar
And you would play me through the night
'Til the dawn
I wish you'd hold me in your arms
Like that Spanish guitar
All night long, all night long
I'd be your song, I'd be your song
The notes were pure, and Evon was completely captivated by the strong, clear voice. Rae was singing for her, and the blonde felt her heart stirring in response, opening cautiously wider to accept this woman a little more. It was scary and wonderful all in the same moment.
When the song ended, the crowd erupted, cheering and calling Rae's name. But she was intent on only one. As she stepped away from the stage, she felt a hand on her arm.
"Lana. How are you?"
"I'm doing ok. How about you?"
"When I didn't see you for a while, I tried calling, but never got an answer."
Rae looked at her, puzzled. "That's strange. I don't remember any messages. I would have called back."
"Oh, I didn't leave any. I thought you might be busy."
"I have been, quite honestly."
They stood in awkward silence for a few seconds until Lana spoke. "Can we get together sometime? For dinner, maybe, or a show?" Seeing Rae's hesitation, she added, "As friends, like we talked about before. Look, I know you're interested in Evon. It's pretty obvious. But I'd still like to stay in contact."
Rae relaxed. She really liked the young woman and wanted to remain friends. "Yeah, me too. Are you here alone?"
"Um, yeah, why?"
"Why don't you join our table? It's just Evon and I, and another couple who are good friends of mine."
"Thanks, but I'll pass this time."
"Are you sure? You're more than welcome."
"Yes, I'm sure. I'm not staying long, and there are a few people here I want to catch up with before I leave. But thanks. I appreciate the invite."
"Oh, ok then. Well, if you decide to stay, we're sitting up near the window."
"Got it. I'd better get going, let you get back to your friends."
"Alright, take care, Lana."
"You too. I'll give you a call soon."
"Great, see ya." Rae gave her a brief hug, then turned to head up the stairs, eager to get back to the table.
The young blonde watched as Rae made her way through the crowd to Evon, who stood up and kissed her. She could see the smiles on their faces as they embraced, and how the smaller woman tightened her hold around Rae's neck as she whispered into the tall woman's ear. Lana blinked quickly and rubbed the moisture from her eyes, feeling a sense of loss for something she never had, and knowing it would be a very long time before she made that call.
The music thrummed through the speakers, and Amy jumped up, dragging Sarah onto the dance floor. "Come on, you guys! Come dance with us!"
Rae and Evon followed and the two couples danced side by side while Evon showed Amy a few steps, which she had to immediately try out with Sarah. After three very upbeat extended mixes, the DJ slowed it down, and Rae took Evon into her arms. "Having a good time?"
The blonde smiled. "Yes, I'm glad we came down here." She tucked her head under Rae's chin. "Mmm, it's been so long since I danced like this. Feels wonderful."
"Yeah, it does." Rae kissed the soft, golden hair and closed her eyes as they swayed to the beat, loving the feel of the small woman moving against her.
Evon leaned her head back and slid her arms around Rae's neck. "Will you stay with me tonight? I feel very close to you right now, and I want to wake up with you tomorrow. I'll even cook you a big breakfast."
Rae tilted her head and gave Evon a soft kiss. "Yes, I'll stay, and you don't have to cook breakfast. I'll take you out for brunch at Cosmos."
"Mmm, no. I'll make you breakfast in bed."
"An offer not to be refused." She leaned in for another kiss.
The song ended and Teri switched back to a fast beat. Feigning exhaustion, Sarah turned to leave the floor when Amy grabbed her hand. "No! I love this song! Let's keep dancing, please?" She stayed when her energetic lover gyrated her hips seductively in her direction.
"We're gonna sit down." Rae took Evon's hand and led her back to the table.
"God! Amy is a riot! She's so hyper!"
"Yeah, Sarah was like that too, before the accident. She's mellowed a lot." Rae laughed at her exlover's antics on the dance floor. "But by the look of those moves, Amy's managed to bring her wild side back out."
"They're a great couple. It's nice to see. Maybe we can get together with them more often."
"Sure. I don't see Sarah nearly as much as I'd like to."
"Do you still have feelings for her?"
Rae looked at Evon in surprise. She hadn't expected that question. "If you mean romantic feelings, or aspirations of being involved with her again, then no. The time that we could have attempted to get back together is long past. I love her unconditionally as my best friend, and I'd do anything for her, but I'm not in love with her anymore. Why do you ask?"
"You just seem so close, that's all. And I know how difficult it is to draw that line between relationship love and friendship love. It can get pretty blurry."
"We are very close, but believe me, Sarah is head over heels about Amy, and I'm head... I mean, I love her, but not like that anymore."
Evon caught Rae's slip. "What were you going to say?"
They had been so focused on each other and their conversation that neither woman saw Cindy approach the table.
"Well, well. The prodigal daughter returns. With a new look, and a new girl." She pulled out a chair and sat down. "So how are you gals? The cut is nicely butch, Rae. Suits you. Very sexy. Don't you think, Evon?" The smile she directed at Evon was as cold as it was disingenuous.
Rae spoke before Evon had a chance to recover from the icy sneer. "I don't recall inviting you to join us, Cindy. That seat belongs to someone else, so do yourself a favor and leave."
"Who? I just got here. Are you two double dating? How incredibly sweet. Where are they?" She turned in the chair and spied Sarah and Amy on the dance floor. "I don't believe my eyes! Your true love is here, after how long? It must be at least a year. And has Lana shown up yet? How about Denise? Will she be flying in? And I'm here. I'm certain there are at least a dozen more." Cindy turned back to the table and smirked at Evon. "Pretty soon we'll have bar full of women who Rae's either fucked or fucked over."
Evon was at a loss. She had no idea how to respond to such venom. She turned to Rae and saw that the blue of her eyes had turned glacial, she was so angry. And when the tall woman spoke, Evon's blood chilled at the flat, dangerous tone.
"Get the fuck out of here."
"Why, Rae? Are you afraid your cutesy little girlfriend will find out about your slutty past? Or how mean you can be to people who are foolish enough to care about you? Surely you don't want her to find out the way the rest of us did?"
Evon watched Rae's jaw clench as she stared at her tormentor, and saw the knuckles whitening as she gripped the edge of the table in an attempt to maintain control. Suddenly, the tall woman stood up abruptly, knocking over the chair she was sitting in, and grabbed Cindy's arm.
"Excuse us, Evon, please. I need to talk with Cindy for a moment."
Rae hadn't looked in Evon's direction. She hadn't taken her eyes off Cindy. The skinny blonde didn't protest as she was propelled towards the rarely used bathrooms on the lower floor. Rae slammed the door open, shoved Cindy inside, and checked the stalls to make sure they were alone. Finding no one, the dark woman backed Cindy into a corner and stood over her, breathing heavily.
"Stay the fuck away from Evon, do you understand me?"
"It's a free country, Rae. I can go wherever I please."
"Perhaps you didn't hear me. I said. Stay. Away. From. Evon." Rae ground the words out through clenched teeth
"Ooo, you're sooo fierce. What are you going to do, honey? Pummel me? This is not ancient times, love. There are consequences for bad behavior."
"Getting you out of my face would be worth it."
"Oh, come on now, Rae. Please." Cindy rolled her eyes and gave an exasperated sigh that made Rae's palms itch, she wanted to hit her so badly. "You know goddamn well that your latest blonde acquisition is not going to be able to satisfy you for long." She ran the tip of a bright red fingernail along the dark woman's jaw. "You need someone with an edge, a little fire, like me."
Rae jerked her head away and caught Cindy's hand, flinging it away from her face. "I'm not going to put up with anymore of your bullshit, understand? Stay away." She turned to leave, but Cindy grabbed her sleeve.
"I am the best of both worlds for you, Rae. I can satisfy that carnal urge that burns so hot in your belly, and I can be the nice, sweet girlfriend hanging off your every word. Why, I even tried to be friends with darling little Evon, just for you. I called to invite her down here for a drink one night, just to get to know her a little better, you understand. I was in the middle of leaving a message when the rudest woman picked up the phone, and demanded that I tell her what was going on with Evon. So I told her what little I knew. What could I do? She said she was her mother."
A white hot, blinding rage filled Rae as the fear she felt for Evon the night her mother left came crashing back. And the pieces fell together. "You called her parents?!"
"Well, honey, doesn't the sweet, young thing still live with mommy and daddy?" The sickeningly innocent tone of the question was contradicted by the satisfied smirk on the blonde's face.
Rae exploded. "YOU FUCKING BITCH! Do you KNOW what you've done?! You've caused Evon to lose her family, you rotten SONOFABITCH! Who the FUCK do you think you are?! I am sick to goddamn death of seeing your pasty, fucking face around here, interfering with me and the people I care about! And I will take you out, you bitch, even if it means that I rot in jail for the rest of my goddamn life!"
The veins in Rae's neck and forehead were bulging, and her lips were pulled back in a vicious sneer. Her arms were rigid at her sides as she leaned over Cindy, who by now, was feeling a cold stab of fear in her chest. She had never seen the dark woman this angry, and it truly frightened her. The blonde began to edge away from the corner in which she was trapped, and Rae let her, following closely in her face.
"Are you afraid yet, you goddamn bitch? Because after all this time, you finally did something to push me over the edge." The ominous tone had its effect, and fear clouded Cindy's eyes. Rae reached out slowly to wrap her fist in the front of the blonde's shirt, but never had a chance to grasp the material as Cindy dodged out of the way and caught her heel on the drain in the floor.
Upstairs, Sarah and Amy had returned to the table to find Rae gone, the chair tipped over, and Evon looking slightly shocked.
"What happened? Where's Rae?"
Evon spoke slowly. "It was awful. Cindy came over, saying some really hateful things to me. Rae took her downstairs. I've never seen Rae like that, Sarah. My God, she was so angry."
Sarah was well aware of the history between the two women, and knew that Cindy was capable of pushing Rae to extremes when she wanted to. "Shit! Evon, come with me. Amy, get Dotty, please."
They clattered down over the stairs with Amy and the bouncer close on their heels. Fighting their way through the press of bodies, all four searched the crowd for some sign of the two women. Dotty asked one of the pool players, who pointed at the bathroom in the far corner. As they neared the door, they could hear Rae yelling, then nothing.
It was like slow motion. Rae felt the rage swell beyond her control as she reached for the blonde's shirt. Suddenly, Cindy started to fall backwards, flailing, the back of her head aimed straight for the unforgiving tiled wall. Just as the bathroom door burst open, Rae lunged for her, to stop the fall, but she missed, the fabric of Cindy's shirt brushing her fingertips. The impact of the blonde's skull against the ceramic was a sickening pop and a spray of blood, and she slumped unconscious to the floor.
The tall woman turned at the sound of her ex's voice yelling her name. The rage evaporated as she turned back to the blonde laying on the floor, and rushed to her side. "Cindy!"
"Move, Rae!" Dotty pushed her out of the way and bent to check on the blonde. She started to stir, moaning and clutching her head. "You're alright now. How many fingers do you see?"
Cindy responded correctly, then grabbed at her stomach. "Oh, I feel sick."
The bouncer picked her up quickly and took her into a stall, holding her hair back as she puked into the toilet. "I think you got a little concussion there, girl."
Rae stood wearily, the anger having sapped her strength, and the adrenaline rush gone, now that it appeared Cindy was going to be relatively ok. She reached down and pulled the spiked heel, torn away from the shoe, out of the drain's grate. She stared at it in her hand. "I tried to grab her, to keep her from falling, but I missed. I scared her, and she tripped. This is my fault." Rae looked up to see Sarah, Amy, and Evon staring at her. She turned to Evon. "I'm sorry you had to see this."
Evon closed her eyes and turned away, walking out of the bathroom.
Dotty came out of the stall, supporting the shaky blonde. "Don't even talk about who's to blame here. I've watched you two go at it for so long now, I can probably tell you exactly what happened without even being here. I'm taking this girl to the emergency room, and when I get back, I don't want to see you, Rae. Not for a few days. But there's something I will tell you both, if you guys don't stay the hell away from each other from now on, you're both outta here. For good. Understand me? You left me with a big, damn mess to clean up and I'm pissed. Open the damn door for me." The bouncer picked up the blonde, cradling her like a child, and took her upstairs.
Rae slumped back against the counter, and held her head in her hands. "What a fucking mess. Jesus Christ."
Sarah leaned next to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "You ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Cindy's not, and neither is Evon, I don't think." Rae jumped up. "I gotta go see her."
"Just give her a few minutes. Tell me what happened? What did Cindy say that made you so upset?"
"She was pulling her usual shit upstairs, in front of Evon, and I wanted her to go away because she was pissing me off. She wouldn't leave, so I brought her down here to talk to her. Then she told me she was the one who told Evon's parents that she was hanging around down here."
"Evon's parents didn't know she's gay?"
"Yeah, they knew, but this was the final straw, I guess. They disowned her, Sarah."
"Oh my God."
"Yeah. So then you guys walk in on this. I'm sure Evon thinks I'm some sort of fucking animal. She doesn't know it was Cindy who told. I have to go find her."
"C'mon. Let's go."
They pushed through the crowd and ran upstairs. Evon's purse and coat were gone. Rae went to the woman at the door who had taken over from Dotty. She told them that the bouncer had already left for the hospital, and that she had hailed a cab for the blonde woman who had been sitting at Rae's table.
"Goddammit, Sarah! She's gone!"
The three women gathered their things and left the bar.
"Hey guys, I'm sorry about all this." The dark woman scrubbed her hand through her hair and looked miserable. "I'm going over to Evon's to see what's up, then I'm gonna head to the hospital to see if Cindy's ok. I'm sorry I wrecked your night." When Sarah reached up to give her a hug, she almost broke down.
"You didn't wreck our night at all. I'm glad we were there for you. Now go to Evon and sort things out. She cares a lot for you, I'm sure of it."
"I hope so." Rae bent down to give Amy a hug, then jogged down the road to her car.
She pulled a U-turn on Church and grabbed her cell phone, punching in Evon's speed dial. Four rings and then the answering machine clicked on. She didn't leave a message. She waited a few minutes, then redialed, but again, no answer. By this time, she was worried. Evon should be home by now. Finally, she pulled up in front of the blonde's house and saw the light shining in the living room. Watching for a few seconds, she saw Evon's unmistakable outline moving around the room. Dialing once more, she waited for Evon to pick up, but she didn't. She doesn't want to talk to me. The message tone sounded, and Rae spoke.
"Evon, please pick up. I'm downstairs in my car, and I really need to talk to you. Please."
"Evon. Thanks for answering. Can I come up?"
"No, Rae. I don't think that's a good idea right now. I need to be by myself."
"Why? Are you angry with me? Is that why you left?"
"I... I don't know what I am. I just had to get out of there. When I saw her lying on the floor, and all that blood... I just had to go."
"Evon, it was an accident. Her heel caught. I tried to grab her, but I missed. I..."
"Rae, you scared her. That's why she fell. You scared me. I've never seen you like that before."
"But I'm not like that! Not anymore! She just brings out that side of me, that's all. She just bugs me and bugs me, and never gives me a minute's peace! And when she can't get to me, she goes after my friends. I can't let her keep doing that, Evon."
"What side, Rae? What side does she bring out?"
"My temper. My anger. She just knows how to push all my buttons."
"That was more than anger, Rae. You were almost out of control. I could see it in your eyes."
"I'm telling you, that's what she does to me!"
"It has to be in you, Rae, in order for someone to bring it out."
"I have to go, Rae. Please don't call for a while. I need some time alone."
"Evon, please. I would never hurt you. You have to know that."
"I think I know, but I need time. Goodnight, Rae. Drive safely."
As the line disconnected, Rae dropped the phone into her lap and leaned her forehead on the steering wheel. And cried. Had she looked up, she would have seen Evon standing at the living room window watching her, with huge tears rolling down her cheeks.
Rae pulled into a visitor spot outside the emergency room and sat for a few minutes, gathering herself. She got out of the car and walked through the small side door, avoiding the flurry of activity at the wide sliders. Locating Dotty immediately, she headed across the busy waiting room to the far corner, near the window.
Dotty grinned. "Hey yourself, girl. Siddown."
Rae sat on the wide window ledge and leaned back against the cold glass. "How is she?"
"Oh, she'll be fine. Minor concussion and a few stitches. They're gonna let her go in another hour unless her head starts spinning like Linda Blair or something. I'll wait and take her home. Listen, don't feel bad, it was an accident. I know it, and so does she."
"Well, I'll be very surprised if she sees it as an accident."
"Trust me, she does. We had a nice chat in the truck on the way here, and as woozy as she was, she still made sense. She knows she went too far. You scared the fuck outta her, and you maybe even scared some sense into her. I don't think she'll be bothering you anymore."
"I'll believe it when I see it."
"Alright then, you think what you want. How's your girl doin'?"
"Not so good. She doesn't want to see me."
"Now what the hell is that all about?"
"I scared her, Dotty. She thinks I'm dangerous."
"What the fuck? You're no more dangerous than I am. Does she know how much of a pain in the ass Cindy is? Jesus, if she poked at me as much, I'd have killed the bitch by now. 'Course, you didn't do yourself any favors by sleeping with her."
"Can we not go there, Dotty. Please?"
"Yeah, yeah. Anyway, you want me to talk to Evon?"
"No, I have to deal with this myself. Maybe she'll be ok in a few days."
"Yeah, I'm sure she will. Go on home, Rae. You look like shit."
"Jeez, thanks, Dotty." Rae stood up slowly. "Listen, thanks for handling this tonight. You're a good friend. And tell her I said I'm glad she's ok, but to stay the hell away from me."
The bouncer chuckled. "No problem. G'wan."
Rae leaned down and gave the massive woman a hug. "See ya."
The next few days were miserable for Rae. Evon never left her mind, and she had picked up the phone to call more times than she could count, only to set it back down. The hours were unbearably long, and by the time Wednesday rolled around, she couldn't wait any longer. Sitting at her desk, she looked at her shaking hands. She wasn't sure what she would do if Evon told her that she didn't want to see her anymore. The only thing she was certain of was her love for the young woman. She dialed the direct number Evon had given her.
"Yes, may I speak to Evon Lagacé please?"
"I am sorry. Mademoiselle Lagacé is not here."
"Do you know when she'll be returning?
"Who is this, please?"
"Um, this is Ms Brown from the Bank of Commerce. I, um, have some papers for Ms Lagacé to sign."
"Ah. Miss Brown, Mademoiselle Lagacé will be unable to sign your papers for some time. I do hope they are not urgent."
Rae's fingers closed tightly on the receiver. She closed her eyes. "Actually, they are. Can you tell me how to contact her?"
"I am sorry. I do not know. She has taken a leave of absence from the company, and I believe she is overseas."
Oh God. Rae felt sick to her stomach. "Um, thank you, Miss... "
"This is Madame Plante. Is that all, Miss Brown?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Bien. Au revoir, Miss Brown."
Rae hung up the phone and stared straight ahead, palms flat on her desk. She could feel her control slipping, her body shaking, and the urge to hurl the phone through the plate glass window was overwhelming. She concentrated on taking slow, deep breaths, trying to calm the rush of blood that was pounding in her temples. She wanted to scream, to hit something, anything to relieve this painful pressure in her chest. Don't think about it for a minute. Just calm down.
When she felt capable of moving without destroying something, she got up, grabbed her coat, and locked her office. "Julie, I've got the cell if you need me. I have some urgent matters to deal with, so I won't be back for the rest of the day."
Rae got in the car and raced over to Evon's house. Her car was still in the driveway, so she ran up the stairs and rang the doorbell. A heavily bearded man opened the door.
"Is Evon here?"
"Can you tell me where I might find her? It's important."
He scratched his beard. "Might be a problem. I'm just watering her plants 'cause I'm her next door neighbor. She left me the key."
Rae wanted to scream. "Please, can you tell me where she is?"
"I dropped her off at the airport yesterday. Said she was going to London."
Rae's legs felt weak, and she leaned against the doorjamb. "Do you know when she'll be back?"
"No, said she bought an open ticket, and she'd call to let me know. I'm just watering her plants."
Rae closed her eyes and took deep gulps of air.
"You ok, miss?"
"Yes. Thanks for your help."
"No problem. Hope you get your important business taken care of."
"Yeah." Rae walked on unsteady legs back to her car. How she got back to her apartment in one piece was a mystery, as she didn't remember one second of the journey. She walked through her apartment, and opened the patio doors, stepping out into the whipping, late November wind, oblivious to the freezing cold. She stayed out there until she was numb, then came inside and crawled onto her bed.
Denise scanned the arriving passengers for the blonde head, a worried look on her face. Evon had called her very early Sunday morning, asking if she could come and stay with her for a while, maybe even until Christmas. She had readily agreed, asking Evon what was wrong. The blonde had refused to go into any detail, stating that she would explain when she got there.
Finally, Evon emerged from customs, looking weary and beaten. When she spotted the redhead, she smiled weakly and hurried through the gate, falling into Denise's outstretched arms. "Thanks for coming to get me."
"Evon, sweetie, I'm so happy to see you."
"Come on now. Let's get your bags. We'll have to take the tube into London. Is that ok?"
"Alright then, let's go."
When they arrived at Denise's flat, Evon looked as though she was going to fall asleep standing up. Denise bustled her off to bed and sat with her until she dozed off. Staring down at the young blonde, she could see the dark circles under her eyes, and she had noticed in the airport that her green eyes were dull and cloudy, like they'd been after Vic's death. Something had gone terribly wrong for Evon, and the redhead was going to find out what had damaged her dear friend once again.
She left the room quietly, closing the door behind her, and picked up the phone, disregarding the time difference. She dialed the familiar number and waited.
"Rae, it's Denise."
"Denise!" The groggy voice disappeared instantly as Rae sat up in bed. "Is she there?"
Ah. I knew it. "Yes, Rae. She just arrived. Now I want to know why she's here." The redhead was flabbergasted to hear the sounds of sobbing coming through the line. "Oh God, Rae, what's happened? Sweetheart, please tell me. She looks like she hasn't slept in days."
Rae was so relieved that Evon had gone to Denise that the emotions simply overwhelmed her. She knew that if there was ever a chance that she would get Evon back, it would lie in the capable hands of her best friend. "Just... just gimme a sec here. Fuck. Blubbering like a goddamn baby." She sniffed and drew a few deep breaths to calm herself. "Have you talked to her?"
"No, she just got here, Rae, and she looks like hell. Now tell me what's going on."
"I fucked up."
The redhead blew out an exasperated breath. "Rae, for Christ's sake! What the hell does that mean?! My two best friends are a mess, and I didn't even know you were involved! Now, you're going to have to give me a little more to work with here."
"It's a long story. Do you want me to call you back?"
"No, no, don't worry about that. Besides, the ringing would probably wake her up, and she needs sleep. Just tell me."
Rae told her the entire story, from seeing Evon in the bar the night she broke down, to the final confrontation with Cindy. She told her how she had known from the start that she felt something for the blonde, and how, over the last few months, she had fallen in love. Deeply in love. With no way out.
"Oh, Rae. Does she know?"
"I don't know. I didn't tell her. I didn't think I could yet. She's had enough to deal with. Should I have?"
Denise's heart went out to her friend, normally so capable and confident, now sounding completely lost. "No, I think you did the right thing by not telling her. She probably needs more time."
"Can I fix this, do you think? Can I make it up to her somehow?"
"Evon's been through hell and back in the last year and a half, almost two. I think she's running scared right now."
"I'll give you my best guess, but don't take it as gospel because it's just a guess."
Denise remembered the phone conversations she'd had with Evon, and how her voice changed when she spoke of her tall, dark friend. "I think she's afraid of her feelings for you, and you gave her a perfect excuse to get away for a while. I don't think she could have otherwise."
There was silence on the line as Rae absorbed Denise's words. "So what do I do?"
"Sit tight and wait. I know how hard that's going to be, but you have to do it. She'll talk to me, and I'll help her get through this."
"I can't lose her, Denise. Help me, please." The low voice cracked as Rae choked back a sob.
"I will, honey, one way or another. You hold it together at that end, and I'll do what I can here."
"I'd never hurt her, Denise. You know that, don't you?"
"I absolutely know that, Rae. And I'll make sure she does too."
"You're welcome, baby. Now try to get some sleep. I'll call you in a few days, ok?"
"Ok. I love you, Denise."
"I love you too, sweetie. We'll talk soon, I promise."
"Alright then. Bye, honey."
Evon slept for almost twelve hours. When she finally pulled herself out of bed, she felt ill from lack of food and caffeine.
Hearing no response, she went into the kitchen and found a note tacked to the refrigerator door.
I hope you've had a good rest.
I've gone to work, and will be
back round about 2:30am.
The cupboards are full, so
get yourself something to eat.
Coffee is in the icebox, and the
filters are on the counter.
We'll talk when I get home.
Evon made coffee and fixed herself breakfast, even though it was almost midnight, forcing herself to eat and not think, about work, or her parents. Or Rae. But the dark woman's image sprang vividly to her mind despite her efforts, the forlorn look in the bathroom, the last time she'd seen Rae's beautiful face.
She washed her dishes and put them in the drying rack. She poured a fresh cup of coffee and pulled a chair to the window in the living room. The street below was still bustling, even at this hour. London never sleeps. It gave her something to focus on, as she wondered about the lives of the people passing by, and made up stories in her head about the anonymous faces that stood out from the rest. But soon, she found herself comparing them to Rae, her purposeful stride, the way she held her head high and proud, the easy, charming smile. And the clenched jaw, the crystal blue eyes filled with a cold fury that had shocked her so much.
Evon shook her head to clear the image, spilling the untouched coffee, now ice cold. She cleaned up the mess and went to the bedroom to unpack. She hadn't known how much to bring because she had no idea how long it would take to sort through the jumble of emotions rattling around in her heart. So she threw in enough casual clothes to last a few weeks, knowing she had absolutely no intention of taking advantage of London's active nightlife.
It had been quite easy to take the month off work. The current production was running smoothly, and she was well ahead of schedule with notating the next. The situation with Madame Plante had become far too strained since her mother's visit, and Evon knew she would have to make a decision soon regarding her future with the company. She was not a confrontational person by nature, and the tension was wearing her down. Her work had lost its appeal after such a promising start, and she had no desire to continue on in such a negative environment. The trust fund she acquired when she turned twenty-one was a comfortable nest egg, enough to allow a lengthy hiatus and possibly, enough to start down a different path. If she could only figure out what she wanted to do.
She had ended her therapy sessions, and during the last visit, Joanna had readily agreed that time away would be good for her. The therapist had left her door open to Evon, knowing that there were still more difficult times ahead, especially given the situation with her parents.
And then there was Rae, the stunning, noble woman who had entered her life unexpectedly, and done more to heal her heart than Evon thought possible.
After unpacking, Evon made herself a cup of tea, and flipped on the television, more for company than anything else, as she waited for Denise to return from work.
Eventually, the key rattled in the lock, and the redhead came into the living room, smiling at her house guest. "Hi honey. I'm home." She leaned down and gave Evon a warm hug. "How do you feel? You were sleeping well when I left."
"I did, thanks, and I do feel better. A bit jet lagged still, but better."
"Good. By the way, the bed is more than large enough for both of us, so I won't hear about you sleeping on the couch while you're here, alright?"
"That'd be great, thanks. Do you want some tea?"
"Yes, but I can make it."
"No, I'll get it. Sit down. You've been on your feet all night. Was the bar busy?"
"Hopping, as usual. I can't complain though. I enjoy it." Denise took off her shoes and sighed with relief as she propped her feet up on the ottoman. "Ahh, feels good to sit for a minute." She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, listening to Evon bustle around in the kitchen. "I love that you're here, you know."
Evon returned with two cups and sat down next to her on the couch. "Quite honestly, Denise, I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be at this moment. I appreciate you taking me in on such short notice."
"Don't be silly. You know you're welcome here whenever, notice or not."
"Thanks. I'm lucky to have you."
"And I feel the same about you." The redhead sipped her tea, and watched Evon over the rim of her cup. The blonde seemed distracted, but quite a bit more together than when she had picked her up at the airport. "Honey, why are you here? Are you going to tell me what happened?" Denise had no intention of mentioning her conversation with Rae, just as she had not told Rae about her and Evon's discussion the night that the two women had gone out to dinner. She wanted to help, and she would in any way possible, but she was not going to get trapped in the middle of their relationship.
Evon stared at the flickering screen of the television, her eyes distant and unfocused. The silence hung between them until finally, the blonde turned to face her friend. "You have every right to know why I'm camping in your flat a thousand miles from home, and I will tell you, I promise. I just need to think about things for a little while, to sort them out in my head. Is that ok?"
"Of course, sweetie. And you can stay here as long as you'd like."
"That's a relief, because I have no idea how long it's going to take. Now, tell me what's been going on with you, and show me this painting you've been working on."
Denise recognized her friend's need to immerse herself in something other than her own problems, so she acquiesced and entertained Evon with stories about mutual acquaintances, until she had the blonde smiling at the familiar names and antics of the bar regulars.
A week had passed since Evon left, and Rae had heard from Denise once since the first phone call. She explained that Evon had not discussed anything with her yet, and it appeared that she would be staying in England for a while, at least until Christmas, when Denise hoped to bring her back for the holidays.
So it would be more than a month that she wouldn't see her, and the blonde's absence was tearing at Rae's heart. She wanted so much just to talk to her, to hear her voice, to tell her that she loved her and wanted nothing more than to be with her. But Denise had told her not to call, that Evon had withdrawn and obviously needed the time by herself.
Rae couldn't bring herself to accept that their chance to be together was gone, so she carried on as though it wasn't. She pushed down the pain and went Christmas shopping, buying the things she planned to give Evon and Denise, and decorating her apartment for the holidays, something she hadn't done for years. She stocked her kitchen with food and cookbooks, making her own meals, some of which were successful. Some weren't. She focused on her job, and in the evenings, came home and worked out relentlessly, exhausting herself so she could sleep.
Mel and Dotty called numerous times to check on her, as she had isolated herself completely from her friends. Her emotions were too close to the surface, and she knew that a sympathetic glance or a word of encouragement could break the thin veneer that held them in check.
But finally, it was too much. She was driving herself insane, trying not to think about Evon. The harder she tried, the more she relived their time together. So almost three weeks after Evon's departure, she went down to The Rose on a Saturday night. Dotty and Mel greeted her with subdued enthusiasm, as did Rachel. They could see her struggle for composure, and they did their best to take her mind off Evon's absence. Eventually, they left her alone at the end of the bar, sensing that she didn't want to talk. She just needed to be around people.
After the third beer, she got up and headed to the bathroom. When she came out of the stall, Cindy was leaning against the wall, waiting for her. Rae sighed, not having the strength or the inclination to deal with the woman. She couldn't even muster the energy to be angry anymore.
"Does Dotty know you're in here?"
"No, I made sure they didn't see me come in."
"I don't have anything to say to you, Cindy."
"I know, and I don't blame you."
"Really. Well, isn't that nice. After everything you've done, you don't blame me. That's big of you. Good-bye, Cindy."
"Rae, wait. I need to tell you something."
"There's nothing left to say."
"I want to apologize for what I did."
"You're just full of surprises tonight, aren't you? Or is this a different ploy to ingratiate yourself, then attack when my back is turned?"
"No, I'm not going to bother you anymore. Or Evon."
"I don't want to hear you talk about Evon, understand?"
"Ok, ok. Look, I know I shouldn't have done what I did, but there's no way I can take it back. I did it because I... I wanted you, Rae. I've watched you with all these other women, and you never gave me a chance, not once, to mean anything to you. I loved you, Rae. I've been in love with you since the first time we met."
The dark woman closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. "You're trying to tell me that all the things you did, you did in the name of love?"
"Then you don't have a fucking clue what love is." Rae turned to leave and when she reached the door, she hesitated. "So why now? What sudden revelation did you have to cause you to be so contrite after all this?"
"I thought she was just another distraction. I didn't know you were in love with her, so I didn't know you were already gone."
Rae sighed, feeling a swell of despair. "Yeah, well, after what's happened, there ain't a lot of forgiveness in my heart, you know?" She opened the door and left.
When Rae arrived home, she walked through the dark apartment and leaned against the patio door, looking out at the thin blanket of freshly fallen snow. She knew that if she lost Evon, her heart would surely close forever. It was simply too much to endure all over again. But she knew she'd done it right this time, caring for Evon, giving her the space she needed, being there for her. And if Evon didn't want her, then so be it. All she could do was apologize for not being enough.
She went into her office and got a pad of paper and a pen. She settled on the couch and wrote a short note.
Monday morning, she sent the envelope by courier to England.
Denise and Evon returned to the flat after a morning of grocery shopping. After putting the items away, they made tea and relaxed on the couch, warming themselves against the late December chill.
"When do you fly home?"
The redhead glanced up, relieved that Evon had finally broached the subject. "I really should pack tomorrow. I leave on the twenty-first."
The blonde didn't say anything. She had already told Denise what happened in Toronto, what prompted her flight to London, and how the strength of her feelings for Rae simply scared the hell out of her. She hadn't prepared herself for falling in love again because she never expected it to happen. And when Denise had told her about the extent to which Cindy would go to continually aggravate Rae over the years, she felt that she understood Rae's reaction a bit better.
"Yeah, I'm here. Just daydreaming."
"I don't know. Everything. My mind won't turn off."
"Have you made any decisions about what you're going to do?"
"In a way, I guess. I've managed to sift through the mess and figure out what's important to me. The whole thing with my parents hurts like crazy still, but I can't change them, or me, and crying over it just gives me a headache. As far as work goes, I'll finish notating for Jean-Paul, then I'm done, I think. It's just not what I want to do anymore. The problem is that I still love ballet. I don't know, maybe I'll go back to school and get my masters."
"And what about Rae? You can't convince me that she's not on your important issues list."
"She is. In fact, she tops the list."
"I trust what you told me, Denise, about how she was during your relationship with her, and I know how caring and passionate she is because I've seen that myself. Looking back at that night, I know I allowed myself to overreact because what I was feeling for her was overwhelming. We were dancing, and I felt so close to her, like being in her arms was the only place I wanted to be, ever again. I even started to get a little jealous of Sarah, and the way they still feel about each other. Then Cindy shows up, and the rest of the evening goes to hell. God, she is a hateful person!"
"Oh, I know. She wants Rae, and she knows she'll never have her. Honestly, Evon, I'm surprised at Rae's tolerance. I swear I would have torn her hair out by now if it was me."
"Yes, but you're a feisty redhead."
"Oooo, fightin' words. You know... ." The doorbell rang, interrupting Denise's forthcoming slam on blondes, and she jumped up. "I'll be right back with a few good blonde jokes."
Evon laughed. As she waited for her friend to return, her thoughts turned to Vic. She had borrowed Denise's car and driven out to the hill where she had scattered Vic's ashes a lifetime ago. She stayed a while, listening to the wind as it gathered momentum over the open field, and then she had said good-bye, promising to never forget the love they had shared.
Denise returned in a few minutes with a large envelope, and handed it to her. "I'm going to get more tea. Would you like some?"
The return address had shocked Evon into silence, and she just nodded her head. She stood up and walked over to the window, taking a deep breath. She had no idea what to expect, and wondered what she would do if Rae had written that she didn't want to see her anymore. But how could she blame her? She had disappeared with no explanation, had not contacted Rae in a month, and had left her believing that she had done something horribly wrong. I wouldn't be surprised if she tells me not to bother coming back. She pulled the security strip and peered hesitantly inside. There was a short note on a small piece of stationery, and a sealed envelope. She read the note three times before setting it aside with shaking hands.
I miss you terribly, and wish I was
with you. I apologize for what
happened with Cindy. I would take
it all back if it meant you'd still be
here with me.
I wish we'd had more time together
so you'd understand that I would
never hurt you, because I couldn't
hurt the one I love with all my heart.
Evon opened the small envelope and pulled out a card which had on the front, a black and white photograph of two tiny girls, the dark-haired one holding out a daisy to the little blonde, who was wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. Inside, it read, "I'm sorry." Rae had signed her initial.
"Hey, everything ok?" Denise had returned with the tea, and looked at Evon by the window, standing as still as a statue, with an unreadable expression on her face.
"Oh, I didn't hear you come back in. Yes, I am, thanks. Are you flying British Airways?"
A smile creased the redhead's face. "Actually, yes."
"If we check in early enough, we might be able to get seats together."
It was a few days before Christmas, and Mel had convinced Rae to come down to the party that Deb and Liz were throwing at the bar, before everyone took off in different directions for the holidays. The DJ was playing some rocking Christmas carols, and the patrons were wearing all sorts of festive accessories, from bells on their shoes to Santa hats to fake white beards. Rae sat at the end of the bar, far from the cold wind that whipped in every time the door opened. As Christmas had slowly approached, it became hard to hold on to any hope. Her mind was slowly realizing what seemed to be inevitable, but her heart was ignoring it completely.
She looked up when she heard Dotty call her name, and it took a few seconds to register that the woman standing next to the bouncer was Denise. But there was no sign of Evon. She pushed through the crowd to get to the door, and gave Denise a long, tight hug, then leaned back and looked into her eyes. "She's not here with you, is she?"
A terrible pain lanced through Rae's chest, and tears welled up immediately in her eyes.
Denise reached up and hugged her again. "Hey, don't cry. Just come with me. Where are your keys? I'll drive." The redhead led her out to the car, and then jumped behind the wheel. Rae was leaning back in the passenger seat, eyes closed.
"Where is she, Denise?"
"I'll tell you in a minute. Ah, here we are." She pulled the car over to the curb and put it in park. They were stopped in front of Evon's house, and the blonde was standing in the doorway, waiting. "Go on. She wants to see you. I'm gonna crash at your place tonight, ok? I'll come back here around noon tomorrow."
"Yeah, ok. Are you sure she... "
"I'm sure. Go on."
Rae squeezed Denise's shoulder and got out, waving as the car drove off. She shoved her hands in her pockets and walked slowly across the street. Denise wouldn't have left me here if Evon was going to tell me to piss off. Don't get your hopes up. Just listen to what she has to say. She climbed the steps, feeling a bit dizzy from the blood pounding in her ears. As she approached the storm door, Evon pushed it open for her, then turned and headed upstairs. Rae found the blonde sitting on the couch, so she stood awkwardly, waiting for a cue as to what Evon wanted her to do.
"Just throw your coat on the chair and come here. Sit beside me. Please."
Rae complied and resisted the urge to take the small woman in her arms and never let go. "When did you get back?"
"Last night, but it was really late, so I didn't call."
"I wish you had."
"I know." Evon didn't trust herself to look in the beautiful blue eyes she had missed so much. There were things that had to be said first. "I got your note. And the card."
"Are you still angry with me?"
"I was never angry with you. I was surprised, a little shocked, but not angry. I've thought about it since, and I have to apologize for overreacting. I shouldn't have left like that."
"It's ok. You're back now and that's all that matters to me." A thought occurred to Rae that made her stomach clench. "You are back, aren't you? For good, I mean."
"Yes. I had to come back. I felt so empty without you."
"I missed you so badly, and I didn't know how much I would until you were out of reach. I ran from my feelings, but I won't do that anymore. Can you forgive me?"
Blue eyes glistened as Rae opened her arms and the small woman slid into them, wrapping her arms around Rae's waist. She felt the slender body tremble, and tightened her hold. Burying her face in soft, golden hair, she whispered, "I love you, Evon, with all my heart, and I want to be with you forever."
Evon lifted her head, the long, blonde eyelashes dark with tears, and smiled. "I love you too, and I'll stay as long as you want me."
Rae looked into the beautiful eyes of the woman she loved. "Always." She leaned down and kissed her, and knew everything was going to be ok.
The convertible pulled into the long drive, and moved slowly past the line of cars and minivans. The tall woman cut the ignition and smiled as she watched the scene at the front door of her house.
Evon was dressed in her usual garb for a Saturday afternoon - a sleek black body suit and black tights. She bent down and hugged the tiny five year old dressed in a pink tutu, holding her ballet slippers in her hand. The young mother said something and Evon laughed. The little girl skipped down the drive, followed by a stream of children, boys and girls ranging from five to ten years old, who climbed into the various waiting vehicles. Evon waved as they all drove away, and then leaned against the door frame, turning her attention to the woman waiting in the car. She winked and crooked her finger at the dark beauty, giving her a come hither look.
Rae laughed and reached across to the passenger seat for the bouquet of long-stemmed roses, then slid a long, thin box into her jacket pocket. As she got out of the car, she made a great pretense of hiding the flowers behind her back, making her lover smile.
"Hi, gorgeous. I'm home."
"Yes, I see. And are those roses behind your back, or are you just happy to see me?"
"I'm just happy to see you, you beautiful, sexy, delicious looking blonde." Rae pushed Evon gently into the house and shut the door, leaning her back against the wall and delivering a scorching kiss that made their knees weak. Her lips traveled down to Evon's neck and she whispered in her ear, "I love you, baby."
"Mmm, I love you too, darling."
"These are for you."
"Thank you, love. They're beautiful." Evon slid her fingers through the short, dark hair and pulled Rae's head down for another kiss.
The tall woman pressed her body firmly against Evon's and ran her fingers down the slender body, her thumbs brushing the full breasts. "God, you make me crazy when you wear this."
"Darling, if you keep this up, we'll never make it downtown tonight."
Rae glanced at her watch. "We have four hours before we have to be there. Lots of time."
"No, we have to get supper, then shower and get dressed, and it's going to take at least forty-five minutes to get there."
"Like I said, lots of time." Rae took the roses and set them on the hall table.
"I'll put them in a vase."
"Not now. They'll be fine. They have those little water things on them. We'll do it later." She picked the blonde up, cradling her in her arms, and carried her upstairs to their bedroom.
Evon stood in front of the full length mirror, looking at herself with a critical eye, satisfied with the reflection. Closing her eyes, she smiled.
She had taken a portion of her trust, and combined with the earnings from the sale of Rae's condo, they had purchased the large, two-story house north of the city. It was situated on a beautifully landscaped acre lot, far enough away from neighbors that they could enjoy the backyard without prying eyes. The huge, unfinished, full basement had been a primary point of interest, and immediately upon moving in, they had set to work turning it into a dance studio, where Evon taught ballet to children whose parents were appalled at the attitude of the teachers who instructed at commercial studios. Her credentials had brought in the initial flow of students, and her obvious love of dance and nurturing personality had done the rest. She was now teaching three evenings per week as well as Saturday afternoons, and given the number of new students, would have to add another evening to keep the classes a manageable size.
"Wow. Are you sure we have to go?" Rae, dressed in her traditional black pants, shirt, and jacket, was leaning against the door with her arms crossed, a look of pure desire in her eyes.
Evon did a little spin. "You like?"
"I like. A lot."
The blonde was wearing a classic black mini dress that accentuated her athletic physique beautifully. Rae walked over and kissed the bare shoulder, then started to remove Evon's fabric choker from her neck.
"Why are you taking it off? I thought you liked it on me."
"Oh, I do, " the dark woman purred in her ear, "But I want you to wear this instead." She pulled a strand of black pearls from her pocket and gently placed them around Evon's neck, fastening the clasp in the back.
"Oh God, Rae," Evon breathed, as she touched her fingertips to the pearl choker. "They're beautiful." She turned and reached for her lover, pulling the dark head down for a long, sweet kiss. "Thank you, darling."
"Mmm, I'll buy you another set if you promise to kiss me like that forever."
"I promise. I love you."
"I love you too, baby."
Rae pulled the car into a parking spot directly in front of the bar, that coincidentally had just been vacated. The front door of The Rose, bearing a sign that read "Closed for a private function", swung open and Dotty stepped out, dressed in a formal tuxedo.
"Ladies, you both look stunning, as usual."
Evon's eyes opened wide. "Wow, Dotty! You look incredible!"
Rae smiled brilliantly. "You clean up nice, girl."
"Why, thankee, thankee."
The bouncer ushered them into the foyer, where a black curtain blocked their view of the bar's interior. Evon glanced curiously up at Rae, who shrugged her shoulders. Dotty pulled the curtain aside with a flourish, and the two women were greeted by a huge banner that read "Happy Anniversary Rae and Evon!". The banner hung above a crowd of at least fifty women who yelled "Happy anniversary!", then held up glasses which they tapped loudly with spoons, until the room was filled with sound. The chant began. "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"
Rae smiled and shook her head with delight, while Evon leaned against her, a beautiful blush reddening her features.
The clinking of glass grew louder. "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!"
Rae turned Evon in her arms and gazed into the glistening emerald eyes. "Happy anniversary, baby." She leaned down as Evon wrapped her arms around her neck, and gave her a kiss that conveyed all the love she felt in her heart.
The gathering of friends erupted
in a huge cheer of congratulations.
Well, there it is. <s> I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was most definitely a labor of love. A special thanks to my friend Carole, who motivated and encouraged me with flair and grace, and a little bit of guilt. <s>
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