Disclaimer: Although these characters are my own, I am adding this in case someone would see any resemblance of the characters of Xena and Gabrielle, who belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights is intended.
Subtext disclaimer: Anyone against two consenting adult females in a loving relationship? Bye-bye. Underage? See ya later—like when you’re old enough. Illegal where you live? Sorry, but again back out. Anyone left? WELCOME
And thank you for your time.
Thanks April—always my thanks—none of this would be possible, but for you.
"Way to go Kate, now you’ve done it." The dark-haired woman grimaced, looking at her computer monitor. It was the only light in the room. Sitting in a padded chair with her braced left leg resting on a matching one, she’d been on the Internet since before the room got dark, and just checked her e-mail before taking a break. "Me and my big mouth…or should I say fingers. I just had to add that last comment—couldn’t just give her a compliment without adding a ‘but’ in there. Now look it."
Kate had gotten hooked on reading articles and fiction stories a month before, when an auto accident had immobilized her, and just sitting around was driving her nuts. She had always been an avid reader, always able to lose all track of time once engrossed in a new plot. One fiction author in particular had caught her attention with the vivid descriptions and bold characters. Searching through the archives, she’d inhaled everything written by her, and had enjoyed every single one.
It was only on a whim, and on an extra pain-filled day that had her e-mailing a compliment to the author on how she enjoyed her work, BUT that it needed some proofreading. Never thinking to get response, just a letter to pass the time. After all, she writes with a good sense of humor, and it must come from somewhere.
So now Kate had e-mail staring at her from the author.
"Well, might as well see what damage I’ve done. Hope she can take a joke." Muttering to herself, and feeling guilty now for taking out a bad day on someone who had literally given her hours of pleasure, and a refuge from the forced confinement she was living with. Noticing there was an attachment when opening it, she first the note in amazement.
"Glad you have enjoyed my stories—sorry there were any spelling or grammar errors. At 2:00 AM, I sometimes miss the little buggers. Just so the next story will
be perfect, I’m sending it to you to proofread and edit. I lay down the gauntlet, don’t miss anything now. I await the error-less script!
"Good God!" the reader gasped. "That was even worse than I figured." Then she grinned ear to ear. "But what a way to read the next story!" Clicking to open the attachment, Kate was soon lost to her surroundings, and all sense of time passing. The author had done it again, taken her away from the real world into one of her own making. It was only the ache from her braced leg that brought her back from the screen world. How much time had gone by? She wasn’t sure, but her leg was making itself known, and her stomach growled for attention also. Time to make a move. Lifting her leg off the chair, Kate grabbed the cane that rested next to the computer desk and gingerly stood up, stretching.
"So you want to know if I’m all talk, huh" Smiling and limping from the room in search of something to eat. "Well, we’ll see about that."
Life for Kate had changed in a split second. Used to being very independent and outgoing, the accident had left her house bound and feeling reclusive in the following weeks. The leg was slow to heal because the break was so close to her knee. But it was the large cut on the left side of her face that made her stay inside. Luckily a lot of her work could be done on the computer, and so she delegated others to do the footwork, and took over more of the paperwork. So far it had worked out well. The small company had a good staff, a tight knit group that were not only workers, but also her family. The usually outgoing woman missed the outside contact, and her family had been wonderful, but it was not the same. At least not enough to venture out yet.
Throwing a sandwich together, and eating it while walking through the house, Kate limbered up her bad leg and the rest of her in general. The dark, shoulder length hair was pulled up in a ponytail, which was usually worn with a cap when out, with the ponytail sticking out the back. She was athletically built from being involved in sports all her life, and so having to struggle to walk again tried the limits of her patience. Reminding herself she was patient, as long as it didn’t take too long!
It was that same trait that had her returning to the computer room with a smirk on her face. "Let’s see what we can find for you, my friend," she said and cracked her knuckles. Sitting back down in her chair, the ‘editor’ printed out her ‘assignment’. "No use being uncomfortable," she murmured and so moved to the extra long couch in the living room with a clipboard and red pen.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," was sung under her breath, re-reading the pages in front of her while chewing on the end of her pen in concentration. Two hours later, any and all typos, miss-spelled words and missed commas had been hunted down and caught. It was the most fun she’d in a long time. "Well, there you go Missy Author. I guess I’ve got something to send off to you tomorrow. But for now, I have some work of my own to finish and some stupid exercises to take care of."
Leaving the comfort of the living room, she put the clipboard by the computer and opened up her work files and email. Working for another hour, she finished up, then shut everything down for the night. Retiring to her bedroom, she did the dreaded exercises to keep her mobility—just gentle range of motion things. Keeping awake was the hardest part, as this type of exercise really didn’t qualify as workout to the athlete in her. When those were completed, then she did some more interesting ones for the rest of her body that didn’t entail using her leg. Feeling better, and more relaxed, the tall woman limped to the shower and then went to bed.
HALFWAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY—
Well there Ms K, I wonder if you received my present yet?" Said the author of the challenge. Green eyes sparkled with mischief as she turned her computer off for the evening. One story finished, another one done in rough draft, and an idea running around in her head for later on. Sam always seemed to be a couple steps a head of herself, and was used to the voices that shared her consciousness. Her mind came back to the subject of the K’s e-mail, while stretching out on her couch in the living room with a glass of wine in her hand. Closing her eyes and concentrating on relaxing the muscles in her shoulders, her mind wandered. There was something about K’s e-mail that made her sense a tinge of sadness or haunting when talking of how her stories helped to pass the time. Something touched Sam on a level she couldn’t put a finger on. So just following her instincts, the sandy haired writer had sent her the latest story to read and edit as much of a joke as a way to return the contact. The usually reclusive accountant shook her head thinking about what she’d done. Usually not one to follow her heart, as past experiences had taught her the hard way, to keep people at arm’s length. This she had learned a long time ago. Oh well, too late now. Guess I’ll just wait and see what happens, if anything. She may just read it and I’ll never hear from her again. Somehow the thought of that made Sam sad. But for now, it was time for bed because all these internal reflections never got her anywhere but confused. She took a now empty wineglass, and put it in the sink on her way to her bedroom. Tomorrow’s another day.
Kate woke in the morning with a smile on her face, thinking how she could send the edited story out. Something with a little flair! But first things first: shower, exercises, breakfast, regular work, and THEN play. And that is the order her day followed. Even though her work didn’t require her leave the house to get the job done, she still tried to follow a set routine to accomplish daily goals—yes, goal orientated, that’s me! During her ‘lunch hour’, Kate used her scanner to send the edited story out, so every red circled word and grammar correction showed up. "There, sent with TLKC—Tender Loving Kate Care," chuckling as it was sent out with a cover note:
"So glad to be of help—ANYTIME I can beat the public to read your work, just let me know. Send them to me earlier, and get some extra sleep! I’ll take over, if I pass this test, that is!"
Kate had her doubts after sending it off, wondering if it sounded pushy, or forcing her offer on the author? And what in the world was she thinking, by offering her services? Her hands were full with her life so upside down as it was, without adding to it. But, I have to have some fun too, and if I can’t get out and about, I might as well do this. IF, and that’s a big IF, I pass the test. Ms Author may just laugh herself right off her chair after reading this. But it does no good to dwell on it now. Too late, already sent, you see. So those thoughts were put to the back of her mind.
Lunch hour over, the afternoon was a repeat of the morning, with only a break when one of her staff stopped in with another load of papers that needed signing or paperwork to work on. She had alternated between looking forward to the visit, and not wanting to answer the door. Covering up the cut on her face with a gauze bandage, Kate tried to keep that side of her face away from view. Not much could be done about the leg, but that never really bothered her—it was her face that Kate thought would bring on stares, and scare small children. So it was a brief visit, catching up on the office gossip and such, then being alone again to wander through the house for exercise. Kate was glad she hadn’t bought one of those multilevel homes with 3-4 steps all over the place. That would have been a pain in the. …leg right about now. No, hers was a simple three-bed room and two-bath ranch style. Some would say it was a bit big for one person, but as there was a computer/work area in one bedroom, and her exercise equipment in the other, it suited her needs. The computer room was pretty stark except for the computer and the desk that it set on, along with a printer and scanner. There was another real bedroom set up downstairs in the partially finished basement off the main room, where there was a pool table set up. Besides a weakness for staying in shape and her computer, she had an elaborate stereo system wired throughout the entire house. One flip of the switch and the whole place pulsated with mega bass and competing tweeters! But since it was a quiet neighborhood, Kate hadn’t really put anything to the test. No need to have to put in insurance claims for blown out windows at the neighbors houses—not a good way to make friends!
Samantha’s routine was set to a whole different pace, being an accountant on her own, and taking care of several different companies through the computer. She was also not a morning person and needed to start off her day slowly. Sam lived in an apartment building, and liked the anonymity of the being one of many. After a glass of orange juice, it was time to drive over to the local health club to do her jogging. Again, with many people around, no one had time to notice her, having their own schedules to keep. She had worked very hard to become invisible—quietly going about her business of living without anyone taking notice. Samantha had a small circle of friends that had stood the test of time, and she was content with that. Entering the building, and doing her warm-up stretches, she began her jog—clearing her mind first, before working out the angles of the current project, and organizing her day of what needed to be done. By the time the miles had been completed, the mental checklist was completed also.. Walking a couple laps to cool off, she then left for home, not feeling comfortable using the club’s shower or changing room.
An hour later found herself showered, changed, eating breakfast and firing up her computer to start her workday. Since Sam didn’t always have set hours, it depended on when who needed what done by a certain time. The end and beginning of each month was busy, as that was when the companies balanced, their books, and she needed to have their figures in order. The accountant tried to keep caught up on everything during the middle of the month, to make the other times less stressful. Writing her stories was a relaxation and joy, but it certainly didn’t pay the bills. So, she started working on her mental checklist, and only took a break at lunch, and then again in the late after noon. That was when she found Kate’s message.
"Oh…my story’s come back. Let’s take a peek." Her smile reaching her eyes in anticipation. Sam was more than a little pleased that K had responded, but decided not to think about that. "So Ms K, you took up the challenge, good for you! Did you find all the errors? Did you dot all my ‘i’s and cross all my ‘t’s? My, my…RED INK!…aren’t we just a pistol!" Laughing out loud. Half an hour later she sat back with a sigh. "Good God, this Kate had found them all, and a couple I didn’t realize I’d done. Maybe I SHOULD take her up on her offer to be my proofreader. She gets to read the stories first, and I get them fixed up without burning the midnight oil. Sounds like a win win situation." But the writer had never shared this part of her life with anyone. The side of her that the outside world knew was cool and aloof. No one would connect Samantha with the author of the passionate, humous fiction that was written by her. This was her secret life—where she could let out all the unfulfilled wishes and fantasies and happy endings, because she had control of the keyboard. The green eyes again read Kate’s cover letter, and again smiled. "Kate, is it? Well, at least I can acknowledge all your hard work, and see if you are interested in more of the same." Something was tugging at her—some long dormant desire to reach out to someone again. It was a lonely existence, but so much safer than setting herself up again. Brandon’s words still echoed in her head; even all these years that had passed. "You’ll never have anyone in your life Samantha. You’re nothing but an empty shell of a woman. You can’t respond to me because you have nothing to give anyone—nothing real." And with those cold and cutting remarks, he’d walked out of her apartment, and her life. She had believed every single word he had said because she never had been able to respond to any romantic affection. It was not just Brandon. He’d just been the last in a short line of tries. Each one had failed before it had started, so she made up her mind not to put anyone else through her problems. Anymore than putting herself through it either: to rise up her hopes only to have them fall around her feet with the first kiss that did nothing. Sam had handed in her resignation from that part of life without the two-week notice. All the passion and romance was really only fiction and in someone’s head. Or if all that feeling was out there, she’d been standing behind the door when it was given out. Shaking herself out of her daydream, she typed a brief e-mail and sent it before she changed her mind.
"Bravo, Kate! You passed the test with flying colors. You’re hired, no references required. Next step, if you so choose, would be to read it through again after I’ve made the corrections. Editorial comments are welcome, if you think they will enhance the story line or characters. But first of all, do you seriously want to get involved with this? It’s boring and tedious work, but the finished product brings enjoyment to countless numbers. Just let me know—if not, that’s really OK too. It was just fun to ‘meet’ you. Take care, Samantha
The ‘candidate’ opened her test result later than evening. She’d driven over to her parent’s house for supper—a weekly gathering—attendance mandatory. Everyone’s schedules were made around them. Tonight had been the usual boisterous affair with three different conversations going on at the same time, with no one exempt from an occasional elbow or joke. Kate was still smiling while entering her house, at a jab gotten off at a brother-in-law. Really, sometimes he was almost too easy a target—ALMOST! Grabbing a beer from the fridge, she sat down for a minute just to check her computer mail. Well, guess who was staring back at her!
She clicked open the email, not even bothering to put her leg up. Reading through it, an ear-to-ear grin took over her face, lighting up the room with its beauty. To be asked to be her assistant was just unreal! Boring and tedious my keester! This would be great—and I can legally send her some suggestions?! Ohhh, lady, you don’t know me at all, now does you? But you will, oh how you will! Suddenly life seemed a bit brighter—making a new friend without having to have her see me like this. "I better accept right away, before someone else volunteers. Maybe it’s a limited time offer. I won’t miss out on this adventure!"
So she clicked on to compose a return message and paused only a moment before typing. "No references, huh? What’s your health benefit package like—do you offer a 401k retirement plan—any paid vacations?!! Just kidding—I think it would be great fun to see how the process works from an idea to the complete story that I would read. If it doesn’t work out, as least we tried, and we can part company, hopefully as friends. I really admire your work and would enjoy assisting you in any way you think I can. Send it on over when you’re done with it. I promise not to use red ink again—just normal typing! Will be talking to you—I’m glad we met, Samantha. Kate"
And so started the volleyball game of e-mail. Back and forth the messages and attachments went flying. Kate loved to send suggestions, and Samantha also soon learned that only half of them were real—the other was just a game of "let’s get Samantha’s goat’. And the ‘goat’ had never had so much fun! It had been years since the writer had relaxed this way with someone. Maybe it the safety of
the computer between them—no real physical closeness, but still slowly getting to know each other. A wall inside Sam was starting to weaken because of this new friend, and though she didn’t know why—it certainly made her feel human again, and not just someone on the outside looking in at life, a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole.
"Kate, you want them to do WHAT! They hardly know each other yet! Are you even reading what you correct?!"
"Sam—what better way to get to know each other than getting stuck in an elevator for say like, a couple hours. After that, they’d know each other a lot better!"
"Kate—this building only has one story to it--for God’s sake, think about it!"
"OOPS! Must have missed that part—HA HA! Gottcha!"
Samantha had never laughed so much in years—if ever. They played so well off each other. Her, the classic straight man, with Kate playing the perfect one liners and Samantha usually falling for them without thinking. Such was the building of this relationship—very slowly but worth it to them both. Layer after layer of unease fell from Sam as the days went by.
Another month flew by without them even realizing it. Kate continued her exercises and Physical Therapy program, though she still had to use her cane and brace, and the progress was slow. The cut was fading, but when looking in a mirror, it was the first thing the face looking back her saw, but she couldn’t hide forever. The business was going strong, with the help of good staff and better family, but the dark haired woman still needed to get out there and do some work herself. There were people that were used to her and only her: people that didn’t take kindly to strangers. It was a family business and she had taken over a large share of it, so refused to let her family down. There was still a bandage on her face, but not the big gauze pad that it had started out as. And though usually out-going, she still avoided small children and old people with bad hearts. While joking about it to herself and others, everyone knew that it was just a cover for being hugely self-conscious about it. Kate never thought herself a vain person, but something about this really bothered her, even though it was unknown as to what it was that got to her about it.
The ‘proof reader’ did have fun though working with Samantha, and had also dug out a little bit of information about her from their messages as time passed. Let me tell you, that it’s a delicate operation! She could have worked for the government’s top secret staff with the difficulty it took to get just the basic information out of her. A little tidbit here, a dropped word there. It was like gathering puzzle pieces: likes to jog, does accounting and it’s her own business, lives in an apartment—never mentions family, and that’s about all so far. It was as if there was an invisible wall around her new friend. Any questions that Kate asked were politely answered, but not much more than that. But as time had gone by, Sam had relaxed some—feeling the start of a bond growing between them—again with the safety of the computer between them. Kate gave as good as she got, keeping everything casual and relaxed, and answering back with her own information from anything that Samantha told her—keeping the balance even.
With each week, Sam could feel the tightness in her chest starting to ease—and so found it easier to talk about herself to Kate, mainly because the other woman made it so easy. Then again, Sam had never let anyone in in a long time too, so maybe she was ready to try again--in baby steps.
Kate’s family had even been introduced to Samantha at the weekly suppers.
It started out as ‘my new friend Samantha’ or Samantha said this’. Her Dad perked up when his daughter mentioned that Sam was an accountant, wondering if she was any good—maybe she could take them on, as that was still his department, and he felt he was getting too old for that kind of hassle. Kate was hesitant to even mention anything about it, as she didn’t want Sam to quit talking about herself if she pushed the issue. She could feel that Sam had been hurt emotionally, at least once and wouldn’t do anything to hurt her. They were making progress, and Kate was very pleased about it. Finally, after another two weeks of e-mailing back and forth, sometimes 6-10 times a day, Kate e-mailed one last time late at night: sending it off, and holding her breath, hoping she wasn’t putting their relationship at risk by moving too fast. It was a gut feeling that Sam was pretty gun-shy with people, and she didn’t want to do anything that would lose any ground that they had gained together.
"Hey Sam—my hands are cramping up with all the missiles going back and forth. Do you think you could handle TALKING to me? It would go a lot faster and we’d get a lot more done! I promise to be a good girl and not harass you too badly! I’ll give you my number and you can decide, I don’t want you to panic over it though. If you don’t want to hear what a friendly and sexy voice I have, that’s OK. Just giving you an option. It’s 555-348-8847. Kate"
The blue eyes then nervously watched her screen and listened for the phone for 3 days—nothing. "Oh God, I’ve backed her into a corner. Now what do I do? I’ll give her over the weekend, and if she hasn’t contacted me at all, I’ll send her an apology. I don’t—no I WON’T lose our friendship over a silly phone call."
Sam’s eyes had gotten big with that particular e-mail. It had been frustrating with all the back-and-forth computer conversations. Making a suggestion, waiting for an answer—modifying—arguing was a pain—even though Kate made even a disagreement humorous. And as the weeks had gone by Sam had felt more and more relaxed with her new friend. So a phone call would be no big deal, right? It had been a wonderful six weeks getting to know her. Sam wasn’t worried about Kate, but was worried about herself, and how much she wanted to make that call. Getting attached to someone else after all this time was really scary. So after deciding to bite the bullet and make the call, she spent the next three days staring at the phone. What to say--was her voice like how she had described it? Would Kate sound pleased that I called? Feeling like she was 16 again, and calling to ask a boy out to the Sadie Hawkins dance—and 16 was a long time ago!
Friday night came and Samantha was all done with work. Hitting a mental block in her writing and wishing she drank something stronger than wine, she wandered around her apartment for half an hour with the glass of wine in her hand. The writer finally shook her head, shrugged her shoulders and walked determinedly to the phone, sitting down on the couch, and dialing the number memorized days ago.
Kate, on her part, was almost starting to panic. The family had said to back off and give her some space and time, but feeling so guilty at causing her new friend any problems she knew, that come tomorrow, something would have to be done to bridge the distance that had appeared between them--so much wider than physical miles. She’d send out an apology and beg her forgiveness for invading her private space. It had seemed like such a small thing to start with, but not everyone was as easy with people as she was, and it was how her whole family was. But from little Sam had said, her family was biological only. Some people like keeping their private lives just that—private. The phone ringing interrupted these thoughts, and she limped over by the couch and grabbed the receiver on the second ring.
"Hello." Sounding and looking distracted.
God, Samantha thought as her stomach churned, she does have a great voice….if that’s her!!
Kate only heard silence. "Hello?" She said again, but more firmly. I don’t need tele-marketers tying up the phone lines right now, she thought and started to frown!
"Umm…may I speak to Kate please?" Came a quiet and hesitant voice, a voice that had just finished her second glass a wine—rare for her.
"Speaking." Came the answer with her heart in her throat. Could this finally, really be her?
"Umm, this is Samantha, Kate…" Samantha didn’t get any chance to give the rest of her speech out before Kate jumped in.
"SAM!! Is that you?! Oh God, I’m so glad to hear from you. I’ve been worried sick that I pushed you too much, and I’d never hear from you again. I’m sorry—I wasn’t thinking how you might feel about pushing that envelope open more than you might want. I just wanted to hear your voice and talk to you." Blurting out the apology without taking a breath.
Sam felt like she’d just been hugged through the phone lines—there was no other way to describe it. Just emotionally embraced in care and concern by that incredible voice. Physically slouching down into the couch—she hadn’t realized the rigid defensive stance that had been assumed on her part. "That’s OK Kate, I was surprised, that’s all. I’m just not very good with people that I don’t invent, ya know? And I don’t know many ‘real‘ people to practice on"
Kate’s rich laughter quietly filled Sam’s head. "I’m not your invention, and you’re doing just fine with me. You have a lovely voice by the way. I’m glad I’m getting to hear it. Now I’ll have it in my head when I read the stories I edit."
Sam felt herself blush at the compliment. How long had it been since anyone had complimented her on anything besides business? And Kate’s voice was silky and velvet, like dark chocolate. Now having heard it, she didn’t want her to stop talking. "Uh, thank you, You sound just like I imagined you would."
Kate grinned and lowered her voice in both volume and depth, "And how was that?" This is so much fun—to tease her in person. I never quite know if I’m getting to her when she has time to think before typing her response, but I’ve got you now my pretty, and your little dog too! She thought happily, at how much she felt more connected somehow.
Samantha panicked—it had just slipped out. "F-Friendly and sexy, just like you said you sounded. Remember your e-mail?" Saved by the bell, and the skin of her teeth! But did she have to repeat the sexy part—even it was true? Putting her hand up to her forehead, and slapping herself a couple times—dumb writer—dumb writer!
Kate laughed again, and this time Sam joined her. They laughed and joked and argued about stories for the next two hours, though it only seemed like minutes to them both. Finally Kate looked at the clock. "Oh God Sam, this is going to cost
you a fortune. I think we got a lot of stuff taken care of tonight. Make sure you remember that when you get your phone bill. Imagine how long this would have taken by computer? And I wouldn’t have had half the fun as I did actually talking to you. This is the best two hours that I’ve had in a really long time. Thank you."
Sam swallowed the lump in her throat, as her eyes unexpectedly filled with tears. "Yeh, I guess we’d best let the phone lines rest. I’ve got a lot of work to do now before I send the next set of papers out. You really have some great ideas—now don’t get a big head over that!" she laughed.
Kate laughed too. "Ooo, high praise coming from you. I will look forward to seeing my genius coming through those next re-writes! To keep things even though, I should call you next time..…if you don’t mind I mean. If not, that’s OK, you can call me anytime you like." She hit herself on the forehead with the palm of her hand. Stupid-Kate. How can you be so stupid!! How can you suffer for days, and then turn around and do it AGAIN!! You idiot! How do you ever even keep your fingers out of your eyes—you certainly can’t keep your foot out of your mouth! Then she held her breath for the reply, praying to get one, and not a dial tone.
Not knowing what Kate was putting herself through; Sam just calmly gave her the number without hesitation. All the stress had just melted away with her friend’s first sentence, and Sam looked forward to hearing from her again—and again—and again!
And Kate? Writing down the number with a shaky hand, she tried to quietly blow out the breath that had been held for what seemed like minutes instead of seconds. "OK. I’ve got it. I’ll give you call when I go over what you send me. Sam?" she added quietly.
"Yes, Kate?" not really wanting to break the phone connection.
"Thanks for calling. I know that this was hard for you to call me, but I hope it was worth the effort. It was to me—and so much more," she said slowly and gently.
Sam smiled through tear-filled eyes. "Oh Kate, it was worth it and much than you know, Goodnight…my friend."
Kate smiled too, and answered softly. "Goodnight Sam. I’m glad we’re friends. I’ve thought of you that way for a while already."
And so the big first phone call was over. Both participants slowly hung up their phones and leaned back into their respective couches, smiling from ear-to-ear.
Both looking quite silly, if anyone would have seen them. But at this point, they didn’t care—they just felt too good. Another baby step taken in their relationship.
Especially for Sam—another wall of pain had tumbled down and she felt so much better at taking the chance to reach out again.
And so the phone calls began. Starting out once a week on Friday nights, just like the first call. They were at the end of the day, at the end of the workweek and the two friends could sit back and relax and just enjoy each other. That didn’t last long, two weeks later, Sam called on a Tuesday with a question. And then it just turned out that one called the other almost every evening—not always for very long, but just to talk over their day. Also it was because they each looked forward to the closer contact, and wanting to end their day together somehow.
One night as they were chatting, Sam blew Kate right out of the water.
"So," she said casually, at least on the outside. "Do you think we should take the next big step and actually meet?" catching her lower lip with her teeth, worrying about the response. It had been on her mind for a little while, but she’d had no intention of voicing it so soon. The telephone was starting to seem still too far away, and so it just seemed to slip out.
Kate’s first internal reaction was ‘YES! I finally get to see her!’ Then the next thought was, ‘Oh God, then she’ll see me! Oh NO!’ Kate hadn’t told Samantha about the accident yet or the results of it. At first, there were too many other things to discuss, and later it seemed too late, so she’d avoided it, like the mirrors in the house. But maybe Sam wasn’t talking about coming too soon, so things will be better. Maybe the brace would be off, and just maybe the scar would have faded a little. That thought relaxed her, and gave her friend the answer she really wanted to give. "Oh Sam, that sounds wonderful! I’d love to spend some time with you. Could you possibly come here? I’d like you to meet the family, and know they’d like to meet you. I’ve already told them how great you are. I know it will take a while for you to make the arrangements, but any time you can come would be fine with me."
Sam smiled at the explosion from Kate. She thought for a second, and then threw caution to the wind, as so often was beginning to happen with things concerning her new friend. "How about this weekend? It’s mid-month so things are relatively quiet. Besides, have hard disk—will travel. I can use your computer for anything that comes up, and check my work mail from there. You just let me know how long it would be convenient for me to stay, and I’ll call in for a flight. How does that sound?" When she was met with only silence, her heart hit the floor, like literally and physically. Time to pull back and get out with a little dignity. "Kate—are you there? If this weekend isn’t good, just tell me, that’s OK. We can do it some other time, really."
Quiet Kate was trying to speak. Her mouth was open, but nothing came out. THIS WEEKEND?!! Tonight’s Monday, so that’s four days from now. No way I’ll be out of the brace by then—still attached to that cane too. And then there was her face—oh boy. You dug a deep dark hole, Kathryn Elizabeth. But if I turn her down, Sam might never try again. Let’s see—NO—bad---YES—bad. Great, a no win situation. But I might as well be miserable with her, than miserable and guilty without her.
"Wow Sam—this weekend sounds wonderful. You just surprised me. Remember you’re the one who said that you can be impulsive, if given enough time! Call for the ticket and I’ll either meet you, or someone from the family will pick you up if I can’t. D-Depending on my schedule. But I’ll clear the calendar for a week after that. Working with the family has its advantages!" A week. In for a dime, in for a dollar. Smiling in spite of herself Kate asked, "Think you can stand me that long?!"
Sam definitely sounded relieved in her retort, picking her heart back up off the floor and putting it back in place. "If you get to be too much of a burden, I’ll just go back to my hotel room."
Kate’s eyes got big, and her voice louder to match. "What hotel room—you stay here with me--no arguments on that part. I want to keep an eye on you. If I get too obnoxious, you can run to my family. They’ll take your side over mine any day! So just call me with the flight number and time, and I’ll get you here, OK?"
Sam’s voice was quiet. "If you’re sure you don’t mind someone else in your home, I’ll stay with you. I haven’t gotten away in a long time, so this will be wonderful."
Kate caught her friend’s enthusiasm and added, "As long as the someone in the house with me is you, I don’t mind at all. It will be a blast. I can’t wait already."
It was only after she hung up the phone, that Kate’s felt the anxiety build up again. She walked to a mirror and looked at the all too familiar sight. The scar was more of a white line now than the angry red mark that it had been. It ran from just below her left eye to her jaw. Having been told by the Doctors that she was very lucky that she could still see out of that eye. Another inch or two would have had tragic results. Now to do some planning: if the bandage was on too long, the adhesive inflamed her skin, making it look even worse, and it was too soon to cover it up with makeup yet. It was a lot better than it had been, but Kate was worried that seeing it would scare Sam away, or have her look at her with pity or be repulsed; by it, and so by her. Strangers were one thing, but didn’t know if she could handle being rejected by her friend that had somehow become very important to her, when they met. With no real answers to find, Kate just turned out the lights and did her nightly exercises with a little extra force to try and forget.
Thursday night found them on the phone, talking over the final arrangements. Her plane would arrive at noon, and Kate still wasn’t sure if she could face all the people that were usually filling the airport, and so sighed for about the third time as Sam was talking. Finally with the last sigh, Samantha didn’t ignore it. "What’s wrong Kate? If something’s come up, I can cancel and we’ll just reschedule—no problem." But at this point Sam would be upset if she had to cancel. She was really excited about the trip. And it was much more than just a trip, it was taking the next step in re-claiming her life. A life that Kate had jump started with her crazy e-mail three months before!
Kate sighed again, and knew the story had to be told. If she didn’t, it wouldn’t be fair to expose Sam to the shock when they met face to face. And there was no way to keep her face turned away from her friend for a week! "No Sam, I want you to come. More than I can tell you. It’s just that I’ve kept something from you. Not really on purpose, but it’s not fair that you should come without knowing."
Now it was Sam’s turn to sigh. It had to be big if it watered down her usual bright persona. "OK Kate, I’m listening. You can tell me anything you feel you need to and I’ll try not to interrupt."
Kate looked up to the ceiling of her living room for help before starting, taking a big breath. "Well, about a month before we met, I was involved in a car accident. Some guy ran a red light and broadsided me. Broke my left leg in a not so good place, and…it…uh also kinda c-cut up my… face…on the left side." She was really struggling to stay calm. "Everything is healing, slowly though. But I thought it was only fair for you to know what you’re in for in case YOU want to cancel. I’m not going out a lot yet, mostly just for work and family stuff. If you want to back out I’d understand."
Sam was filled with both horror at what her friend had gone through, but also hugely relieved that Kate hadn’t just changed her mind. She almost laughed out loud in relief of not being dumped, but wisely kept it in because there was no way she could explain that to her! "Oh Kate, I’m so sorry you were hurt like that. But that won’t keep me from you—I mean coming to see you."
"Thanks Sam" Kate said with sadness in her voice, "but it’s a nasty sight. Think seriously about this…"
Now Sam interrupted. "I’m coming now, just to prove you wrong. I thought you knew me better than to think I’d be that shallow."
This time Kate interrupted again. "No Sam, that really never even occurred to me. I’m just having a really hard time with the mirror, and don’t want anyone else to have to put up with it."
Now Sam did allow a chuckle to come out. "Well, I’ll be seeing it, a lot as I’ll be living with you for a week, so get used to it. When you see me on a bad hair day, your mirrors may just crack with the stress!" Hearing Kate laugh softly on the other end of the line made Sam smile. Then she turned serious in her next comment—almost wagging a finger into the phone. "If you don’t want a public meeting, I’ll understand, but don’t hide from me after that. If I look concerned at all, it will be in sympathy at having to think that you suffered so much at another’s hands." Clearing her voice from the lump in her throat that had gathered there, continued. "Well enough of that. I’ll see you tomorrow." Then paused for a second with a smile hovering on her face. " I, I kinda like the sound of that. Goodnight Kate."
Kate was also clearing her voice from the tears that threatened to fall. "I’ll see you tomorrow, Samantha. I’m really glad and excited you’re coming. I really am. Good night."
Both women looked pensive as they hung up their phones. One wondering what to do to help her friend through this terrible time. And the other one wondering what she had done to deserve someone as compassionate and loyal.
Tomorrow would be an important day in both their lives.
To be continued