Disclaimers: Uhm. No.. I don't think so. This is a work of fiction, borne of my psychotic imagination. The characters are based on themselves, and they (along with their neuroses and psychoses) belong to Bertha (my faithful Muse) and myself. You may borrow them for your own personal use, but make sure they shower before returning them to me.
Sex/Violence: Yeah, this one shall have sex at some point or another, so get the vibrators ready. And it will be that fun lesbian sex we're all so fond of, so if you're not 18... OFF WITH YOUR HEAD! Well no... you know the drill. Violence? No.. none of that. I bring you loooove...
Dedication: To Cindy, for listening to me talk ENDLESSLY about this story and its characters, and for reading, and re-reading, and supporting my madness through all its twists and turns. Thank you for teaching me about love... I was clueless before you came along...and I still have much to learn. I dedicate this also to all my fellow hopeless romantics.. we're a dying breed, I know...
Feedback: Send comments, questions, and cans of Dr Pepper (preferably full) to firstname.lastname@example.org
"I don't know if I can do this," I whispered to Jade, clapping more or less enthusiastically as someone who'd just auditioned finished their piece and walked off stage.
"Does that mean we can get out of here now?" Jade asked me, her eyes pleading.
I smacked her on the shoulder. "You're not supposed to say that!" I chastised. "I brought you along for moral support, after all. Your job is to keep me pumped up and optimistic."
"Rah rah, go Alix go," Jade muttered. "Now can we get out of here?"
"I hate you." I slumped down in my seat, and focused straight ahead as another hopeful actor took the stage.
Jade frowned down at me, leaning down to whisper in my ear. "I don't know how I let you talk to me into coming to these things. You know how I hate theatre."
The guy on stage sucked big time, and I was grateful. "You hate theatre but you love me, and that's what matters." I clapped as the bad actor left the stage.
"Alix Morris?" someone called from the front row.
I took a deep breath and stood up. This was it. My one and only chance to join the Baldwin Players. Since it was improvisation, I was completely at their mercy. Had it been a different type of audition, I would've walked up on stage and acted out a pair of contrasting monologues, unless it was a cold reading in which case I would simply grab the script and read the lines to the best of my ability. This was a bit harder, but I just figured that my life was a huge improvisation act anyway, so if I looked at it that way I had 20 years of experience under my belt.
Reaching my destination on stage, I took a seat on the stool, and faced the darkened audience. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as I waited for instructions on what to do next.
"Okay, Alix. You're a broken refrigerator that's been abandoned in the middle of a Laundromat. You have five minutes to find an owner. Ready...go."
I felt my body sigh. This was going to be a long audition.
Jade was still laughing half an hour later when we walked back to my dorm room. "That was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. The part where you tried to climb inside the washer!" She cracked up all over again.
I merely shook my head, and opened the door to my room, allowing Jade inside. "I just hope I got picked."
"Are you kidding? You were the best one up there. It was wicked." She took a seat on my bed, and broke out the pack of cigarettes. "Mind if I have a fag?"
I scrunched up my face. "Only if you stop calling them that." I turned on the laptop and leaned against my desk as it booted up.
Jade lit up the cigarette, exhaling smoke into the air. "When do you find out if you got chosen?"
"Not sure," I replied, sitting down. "We got out of there pretty early. If I'd known I would've made a date with Valerie." I said that more to myself than to Jade, but she heard it none the less.
"I still can't believe she kept you on the phone for five hours. That's excessive for any normal person, but for you it's out just mind-boggling." She paused momentarily to blow ring of smoke. "You weren't having phone sex, were you?" She wrinkled her nose at the thought.
I narrowed my eyebrows as I glanced at her. "Yeah, that's it." I shook my head and signed on to AOL. "Oh hey you never told me about your date last night," I said, maintaining eye contact with the computer screen as I double-clicked on my mailbox. My email listing popped up in front of me.
Dreamer Re: dÈjý vu
DarkCrystal61@hotmail.com Bored at Pride Factory
I bit my lip, trying to decide which one to click on first. Usually I left the best for last when checking my email, but in this case I wasn't sure which was which.
" ....and then the aliens began to probe us anally which I found quite pleasurable..."
My head snapped in Jade's direction as my brows furrowed. "What?"
"Glad to see you were listening," she said dryly. "What were you thinking about now?"
I smiled apologetically. "I was trying to decide whether to read Jessica's email or Valerie's first."
"Oh you're bloody kidding me." She walked over to my desk, and flicked me on the forehead.
"Ow!" I rubbed my forehead with my hand. "You haven't done that in ages."
"Well you hadn't been this idiotic in a while," Jade replied, leaning over my shoulder to look at the screen. "Read Jessica's first."
I looked at the computer screen. "Why?"
"Cause it's the first one there."
Not sure how I felt about her rationale, I clicked on Jessica's email first anyway.
Paris is beautiful! We visited the Eiffel Tower this morning. I'm not sure what we're doing today. Mathew has our guide book. I think we're going to walk around and take pictures of things. I already bought you a bunch of souvenirs that you'll most likely frown upon and wonder why I bought them for you, but oh well!
Mathew says hi. He wants to know if Dominique has asked about him? He really misses Dominique. Ack! Just got hit with a pillow. I better go before someone gets hurt (well, before he gets hurt anyway). I miss you!
"Sounds like they're having a good time," Jade said.
"Yeah," I responded. "They're one of those freak happy couples that were joined as a cause of the pull of the moon or something."
"Are you going to reply first or read Valerie's email?" Jade inquired, voicing my thoughts.
Without really thinking, I hit 'next' and Valerie's email replaced Jessica's.
I came in for my after work coffee and decided to step into the cyber cafÈ and check my email. I hope your audition went well. I had a lot of fun talking to you on the phone last night. I'm rather proud of myself for keeping you on for that long. It does wonders for my ego, which was shot after playing pool with you the other night. Well, I should go. I have a long day tomorrow. Would it be out of line if I said I missed you today?
I couldn't help the smile that seemed to appear whenever I read Valerie's emails... or heard her voice on the phone... or saw her. "She missed me," I said, unable to keep the awe from my voice.
Beside me, Jade sighed. "You're a gonner." She walked over to the window and flicked her cigarette outside. "Now can you listen to my date story?"
"Oh yeah, sorry about that," I said, turning around and bestowing my full attention on my bald-headed friend. "I'm all ears."
Jade nodded, and sat on the floor next to my bed. "He took me to an art museum after dinner, where he spent about an hour staring at a painting of a yellow line crossed with a purple one. He insisted it was bloody brilliant and fantastic." She shrugged. "So I left him there."
My eyebrows rose in surprise. "How'd you get home?"
"Well on my way out I ran into this really cute bloke who offered to drive me home. He was really nice and gave me his mobile number so I could call him sometime. I was thinking I'd call and invite him to the cinema, what do you think?"
I shook my head. "I don't know how you manage to meet so many different guys just by breathing in their direction."
"Pity, isn't it, that even then I can't seem to find one worth keeping?"
I smiled. "Pity indeed. Maybe this new one will be different."
"Perhaps." Jade smiled, and studied me for a second. "Y'know I really do like this new hair style of yours. You look rather girlish but in a cool dyke sort of way."
"I'm not sure how to take that, Jay," I replied, grinning crookedly.
She laughed. "Naw, it looks good." She nodded toward the computer. "Are you writing back to them?"
My attention shifted back to the emails on my computer screen. "Yeah, I guess I should do that."
To Jessica, I wrote a quick note telling her not to buy me dumb things and to have fun and to say hi to Mathew for me. To Valerie, I simply wrote back: I missed you too. I don't know why but it seemed too important a phrase to include among a bunch of miscellaneous meanderings and psycho babble.
Or maybe it was just the only thing I wanted to say.
In my experience, love is simply pain wrapped in a pretty package of red roses and pink hearts. It becomes a series of fantasies dancing on the walls of your mind, replaying again and again at the most inopportune moments of your day when you should be focusing instead on the tediousness of reality. Then, you return to waking life and it hits you that you don't have what you want. And it hurts. Sometimes, it's just a sting. Other times, the pain is so intense that you can't even breathe. And yet, it keeps you going somehow.
I was lying in bed that Wednesday night, staring thoughtfully at a picture of Jessica. It was one I had taken of her without her realizing it. Leaning against the balcony, black hair flowing behind her in the wind, her azure eyes contemplating the distance as though deciding whether or not to take flight. It was my favorite picture; the only one where the camera caught her without her defenses, without barriers. I'd never shown it to anyone, not even Jessica. Perhaps it was a bit foolish of me, but I didn't want anyone to see her as I saw her.
How do you get over loving someone? I wondered, not at all certain that it was possible. How often do you meet a person who can take your breath away with one look? Who can make your heart soar with one smile ...
The knock on the door caught me off guard. I hesitated a second before putting the picture away, then yelled, "It's open!" When the door opened, and my visitor walked in, my mouth flew open. "What are you doing here?"
Valerie shut the door behind her and stood in the middle of the room staring at me. "Nice to see you too." She eyed me for a moment and smiled. "That's a nice look for you."
For a moment I wondered if I was lying naked in bed without realizing it. I looked down and found, to my relief, that I was indeed wearing clothing. Since I hadn't expected to leave my room for the rest of the night, I'd changed into a pair of blue and white flannel boxers and a gray tank top. My gaze returned to hers. "Thanks. What are you doing here?"
Still not answering my question, Valerie took a second to look around the room, so I took that moment to study her. Looking beautiful as usual, she was clad in faded blue jeans, a gray Miami University tee shirt, and black leather boots. Her blue eyes ceased their exploration and returned promptly to my own. "The girl I was filling in for decided she could work after all, so I went home," she explained.
I felt suddenly bad for making her stand there, so I responded, "I'm sorry. Please take a seat anywhere." I watched her move to the end of my bed, and sit down. "I wasn't expecting you. I didn't mean to be a jerk about you showing up."
Valerie shrugged. "I should've called."
Something occurred to me and I frowned. "How did you find me? I never told you where I lived."
She looked a bit embarrassed. "I ran into your friend Jade at Whispers earlier, and she gave me directions. I really should've called, I'm sorry. I'll get out of here." She went to stand up, but I leaned forward to stop her.
"I'm glad you came," I said, meaning the words. "I meant it when I said I missed you."
This brought a smile to her face, and my heart skipped a beat. "I lied about that part, but I'm glad someone meant it."
I frowned, and she laughed. "Yeah you better be kidding," I said, feeling relief flow through me. Last thing I needed was to fall for someone else who didn't feel the same way. Quickly, I pushed that last thought from my mind. "So did you have a plan for what you wanted to do, or did you just figure you'd wing it?"
"Well I was just hoping you'd be here," Valerie admitted. "But now that you mention it, there were a couple of things I wanted to do."
"Do share madam."
Valerie grinned at me. "Well, the first would probably be inappropriate at this point in time." She winked. "But, the second was for you to show me around campus, if you're willing. I understand if you're busy."
"Do I look busy?" I asked, motioning around me.
"Does that mean you'll be my tour guide?"
I smiled, meeting her eyes. "Gladly." I swung my legs over the side of the bed. "Just gotta put some clothes on first."
Valerie's eyes traveled up the length of my body, and I felt myself growing warm under her gaze. "Don't do it on my account."
Suddenly, I found myself at a loss for words. For a split second I wondered what she'd do if I pushed her down on the bed and started kissing her. Getting a grip, I made my way to the closet to find a pair of jeans. I debated whether or not to tell her to look away, and then noticed that she averted her eyes of her own accord. I changed quickly, and pretty soon we were walking side by side along the empty sidewalks of Baldwin University.
As we walked, I pointed out all the different buildings, and guessing that she wanted to see the art department, I led us in that direction.
"You never told me how your audition went," Valerie reminded me.
I glanced up at her, both surprised and touched that she'd remembered. "It went well, I think. Tough competition though, so I don't know if I'll get in."
"When do you find out?"
"I don't know. They're supposed to call, but I've been sitting by the phone all day and nothing. I'm not sure if that means that I didn't get in, or that they're just taking a while to decide."
Valerie nodded her head thoughtfully. "Got any more auditions lined up?"
"Not for a few weeks." I nodded to the building straight ahead. "That's the Art Department. Would you like to check it out?"
"I was there earlier getting information," Valerie stated. "I like what I've seen so far."
"I feel like a real estate agent," I said, laughing. "How long have you been on campus?"
Valerie stared straight ahead as she contemplated the question, then looked down at me to answer. "Several hours."
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. "All of that time and you came to visit me now?"
Valerie shrugged her shoulders and looked at her feet. "Well, I didn't know whether I should bother you. It took me a while to decide."
I had to smile. The entire concept of her sitting around for hours trying to decide whether or not to visit me was endearing. "What finally convinced you?"
"I really wanted that tour of the campus," she answered, smiling.
Laughing, I looked up to catch her gaze on my face. My eyes met hers and for a brief moment I was caught in the intensity they radiated. "I'm glad I could be of assistance," I replied, looking away before my heart had a chance to beat its way out of my chest. "Is there anything else you'd like to see?"
I caught the brief smile that crossed her lips. "Oh you mean of the school? No I think we covered everything."
"Does this mean you won't be needing my services anymore?" I teased.
She caught my gaze. "You're flirting again," she pointed out.
"No I'm not," I lied. "What would you like to do now?"
Valerie looked at her watch. "I should probably get going."
Keeping the disappointment from my tone, I said, "I'll walk you to your car." The walk to the visitor's parking lot was far too short for my tastes, and when we approached her Bronco II I silently searched for a reason to get her to stay longer. Coming up with nothing, I reminded myself that I'd be seeing her again the following day and chastised myself for being so clingy. "So where should I meet you tomorrow?" I asked, standing a few feet away as she unlocked the door.
Turning back to me, she considered. "Is there a good pet shop around here?"
"A few," I responded.
"Pick you up at three?" she suggested.
I nodded my assent.
She smiled. "See you tomorrow." And then before I knew it she was driving away and I stood there watching after her until I could no longer see the tail lights in the distance.
The following morning my alarm clock didn't go off. Or else it did go off and I didn't hear it. Or else I heard it but in my sleepy state of consciousness decided that sleep was more important than classes and shut if off without further consideration. My point is that that I overslept.
I was awakened instead by the ringing phone. I reached for it and without opening my eyes, said, "Hello?"
My voice was mirrored at the other end of the line. "Hey. Dinner at mom's tonight, don't forget."
This time my eyes did open, and I ventured a gaze at the time. It was two. Silently I cursed myself. I'd missed two theater classes and Valerie would be there in an hour. Calculating the amount of time remaining with the amount of time it would take me to get off the phone with Rachel and take a shower, I decided I'd have time. I sat up and yawned, then returned my attention to my sister, "Okay. What were you saying?"
Rachel audibly sighed. "Dinner at mom's tonight. She's been leaving messages with your roommate all week."
I walked over to my desk and looked around. A second later I spotted the message tacked to my bulletin board. Your mom called. Dinner on Thursday at 6. It was circled in red and underlined in blue. How the hell had I missed that? "I didn't get the message," I said.
"Well mom's expecting you so you better be there. You know how sensitive she is about these things."
"But I made other plans," I whined.
"Your problem, not mine. See you at dinner. Bye."
The phone went dead in my ear, and I clicked the 'end' button. Then tapped the receiver against my forehead chanting, "Think, think, think." It was too bad I couldn't lie to her. I could be an Academy Award winning actress some day and I will still not be able to pull off a lie to my mom. I dialed her number, and crossed my fingers, hoping for the best. "Hi mom," I said, when I heard her pick up.
"Hi Alix. Will you pick up some milk on your way over here. I totally forgot this morning when I went shopping."
"Sure. Um, mom. I have a bit of a dilemma."
"What's wrong?" I could hear the alarm in her tone. "Is it drugs?"
I shook my head as though to clear it. "No, nothing like that. It's just that I didn't get your messages and I made other plans today."
"You're missing my dinner?" Disappointment.
Ouch. I couldn't bear that tone. "No.. it's just---"
"What are your plans?" she interrupted.
"I'm helping my ... friend ... buy a puppy." Why did I pause like that?
"That's nice of you, dear. Well go with your friend and then come to dinner. It won't take you all day to do that." She sounded as though there was something else she wanted to add so I remained silent. "Is this friend... a girl friend?"
My heart stopped beating for a moment. This wasn't a subject we ever discussed. "Um. Not exactly. I mean, she's a girl. She's not my girlfriend. I mean I'm not dating her. I mean, I am, but it's not like---"
"Bring her to dinner."
My jaw fell open. "What?"
"Rachel's bringing Jonathan, so feel free to bring...?"
"Valerie," she finished. "It was about time you started dating."
I was speechless.
"See you at six, okay honey?"
"Don't forget the milk. I love you."
"Love you too. Bye." I hung up, and leaned against my desk for support. That was an unexpected turn of events.
It's amazing what cute animals will do to people. All around the pet store there was a chorus of ooo's and aww's. I looked around, watching as people turned to mush, then returned my gaze to Valerie who was holding a Pug. She looked so cute standing there with the puppy in her arms that I wished I could take her home with me.
"Do you think we make a cute couple?" Valerie asked suddenly.
It took me a moment to realize she was referring to the dog. "Uh, yeah. Adorable. Is it the one?"
Valerie held the puppy in front of her and looked into its eyes. "I think I'm in love," she said, and hugged the dog to her chest, kissing it on the head.
I had to smile. "You're going to be very happy together."
Valerie grinned, and headed to the counter to purchase the new addition to her household. She also had to buy dog food and play toys and a bunch of other things that pretty much cost her a small fortune. Later she revealed to me that she'd been saving for the special occasion, so I was flattered that she'd invited me along.
We sat in the car, Valerie playing with the puppy on her lap. "She's so cute."
I studied her silently for a moment. "What are you going to name her?"
I looked at her in surprise, and she smiled.
"Kidding." She looked at the dog who was now licking her hand. "I think I'll name her Loki."
"Loki?" I must have looked puzzled, because she laughed.
"Oh I haven't seen that yet." I stared down at the dog, and smiled. I'd always thought pugs were ugly, but little Loki was rather cute. I then glanced at my watch. It was a quarter past four, and I still hadn't asked Valerie to dinner. Wasn't meeting the folks a big step in a relationship? Were we in a relationship? Paranoia was becoming a constant presence in my life. "Are you hungry?" I found myself asking.
"A little," Valerie responded, her gaze fixed on the puppy.
I bit my lip, trying to come up with a casual way of asking her. "I'm having dinner at my mom's at six and she said to invite you." I held my breath as I waited for her to respond.
This time she looked up. "You want me to have dinner with you and your mom?" she asked.
I couldn't read her face and the tone of her voice revealed nothing. "My sister and her boyfriend will be there too."
She studied me silently, my heart beating faster and faster with each second that her eyes held my gaze. "I'd love to," she responded.
"Good." I felt a momentary sense of relief, followed by a new wave of paranoia. What if my mom hated her? What if Valerie hated my mom? What if a huge fight erupted?
"Are you okay? I don't have to go if you don't want me to."
Blue eyes were staring at me with concern. I smiled to put her at ease. "I want you to come." And I did. In spite of my worries.
"Do you mind if we stop at my apartment first? I need to get Loki set up."
I grinned. "I'll take the dog up the stairs with me ... you can take the elevator with the stuff."
Valerie arched an eyebrow. "You're so generous."
"I try," I responded reaching for the dog. "Come here Loki. You and I are going to be stair buddies. You don't like the elevator either, do you?" Loki barked in reply. I smiled, giving Valerie a satisfied look. "See?"
Valerie sighed, throwing the car in reverse. "Of all the girls in the world, I pick the one who's afraid of elevators."
"Hey at least you got a choice. I got stuck with the one who's afraid of feathers." Loki barked. "Yep, you're stuck with her too, babe," I said to the puppy, petting her fur. "And you have to live with her." I caught Valerie's smile, but didn't say anything. Instead I let her concentrate on driving while I played with the dog on my lap. In that moment I felt so at peace. Definitely happier than I'd felt in a long time. I glanced between Valerie and Loki for a moment, smiling to myself. I felt at home.
When we reached Valerie's apartment building, I noticed for the first time that Loki wasn't potty trained. And if she was, she'd confused my jeans with the toilet. "Um, Valerie," I called, not wanting to get out of the car.
Valerie was already unpacking the stuff from the back. "Yeah?"
"We've got a situation here," I replied.
She appeared at my side a moment later and then started laughing. "I think you got her a little too excited."
"I have that effect on women." I smiled down at Loki, then picked her up so I could carry her out of the car.
Valerie hung a bag from one of my fingers. "There, you can carry that."
"Yeah, thanks," I replied, glaring in mock annoyance. I waited for her to grab the rest of the stuff, and together we walked into the building. "You know, you could make two trips." She looked like she was about to fall over from all the stuff she was carrying.
"No thanks. One is enough."
"Your mommy is a freak," I whispered to Loki, loud enough so Valerie could hear.
"I heard that."
"But there's nothing wrong with her hearing," I added.
Valerie and I split up when we reached the elevator and Loki and I took the stairs to the fourth floor. "One of these days," I informed the dog as we walked toward Valerie's apartment door, "that elevator is going to get stuck, and you and I are going to get to laugh at your mommy together."
"If my dog ends up being terrified of elevators, I'm coming after you," Valerie announced, unlocking the door and allowing us to pass through first.
"Hey, I'm the one she marked as her territory. Loki and I have bonded. What we have is special and there's nothing you can do about it."
Valerie closed the door and laughed. "We'll see about that." She walked over and took Loki, then grinned at me. "Strip."
"I guess you're not much into foreplay," I joked.
She smiled. "If we hurry I can get your jeans washed for you before we have to get to your mom's."
Take off my pants, I thought. I can do that. She's a girl. I'm a girl. I looked into her eyes and felt the world disappear around me. Yeah... that's the problem. I took a deep breath. "Well if I have to take my pants off, then so do you."
She stared at me in surprise. "What?"
"Yeah," I insisted, wondering if she'd actually go for it, "if I have to parade around your apartment in my underwear, then so should you."
"They're your pants."
"It's your dog."
She narrowed her eyes at me, then relented. "Fine. Give me your pants though, 'cause I have to go to the basement to do it and I'm not walking down there in my underwear."
I hesitated a moment but obeyed, relieved that I'd thought to shave that day. I felt a draft on my bare legs and felt extremely self-conscious under the intensity of her gaze. I handed her my jeans and tried not to blush. "You will stop looking at me like that," I told her.
Valerie smiled. "Sorry, can't help it." A couple of minutes later she walked out with my jeans, and I was left standing in the middle of her living room wearing nothing but underwear and a Nine Inch Nails tee shirt. I felt like a big dork.
Loki had ventured down the hallway so I decided to follow her. I found the dog in Valerie's bedroom and I stood in the doorway looking around. Like the rest of the apartment, the room was perfectly neat. There were a few posters on the walls: Labyrinth, Save Ferris, Dance Hall Crashers, and No Doubt. A full sized bed rested against the wall with a night stand beside it.
I looked down and noticed that Loki had left a little present for Valerie on the carpet. I laughed to myself and then hurried back to the living room as I heard the door opening.
Valerie smiled as she entered. "You should have your pants back in an hour or so."
"Mm. Thank you. Pants off."
"I love a dominant woman," Valerie joked. She seemed to hesitate for a moment, then went ahead and took off her jeans.
I don't know why, but I blushed. I tried to keep my eyes from wandering, but I couldn't help it, which in turn made me blush more. I wished suddenly that Loki had aimed for my shirt as well, then smacked myself mentally for the thought.
You have no idea, I thought, but simply smiled. "Yep. Oh, careful where you step in your room."
She frowned. "Why?"
I pointed down the hall, and she walked over there slowly as though afraid to confirm her suspicions. She stopped at the doorway to her bedroom and shook her head. "Guess we'll have to potty train her some how."
We? "Yeah or else you'll need to replace your carpet quite frequently," I replied, still wondering what she'd meant by 'we'.
Continued in Part 4
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