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
The drive to my mom's house was a relatively quiet one. I was too busy worrying about introducing Valerie to my mom and sister to come up with conversation topics, and Valerie was probably worrying about leaving Loki alone in her apartment. I almost suggested that we call the whole thing off, but I didn't. I'm not exactly sure why, but I'm pretty sure that it had something to do with the fact that in spite of my fear, I was extremely curious to see how my family would take to Valerie.
"Are you nervous?" I asked Valerie as the sign reading 'Welcome to Baldwin City' rolled into view.
Valerie threw me a sideways glance and grinned. "Should I be?"
I shrugged, looking out of the passenger side window. "Truthfully I don't know what to expect. I've never brought a girl home so-to-speak."
"You've kept your other girlfriends well hidden?"
The question caught me off-guard though it didn't really surprise me. "I've never had a girlfriend," I responded quietly. I wasn't exactly embarrassed, but I was a bit worried about what Valerie would think.
"None at all?" Valerie asked, sounding surprised but not in the least bit judgmental.
"One, but it only lasted a couple of weeks."
"So you've never ..... er ...."
I looked at her. "Had sex? No."
I studied her silently for a long moment, hoping for further commentary. When none was forthcoming, I said, "What is 'hmm'?"
She looked at me and smiled. "Sorry I'm just surprised."
"Why, do I look like a slut or something?" I was trying to keep the mood light because I knew we were getting close to my mom's house and this was bound to be a conversation that lasted a while. I started giving instructions to my mom's house as we talked.
Valerie laughed. "Yep. A big whore, that's what I thought you were."
"Sorry to disappoint."
"I'll deal with it somehow."
I'm not sure why I asked the next question. Perhaps because I was hoping zero would be her answer, though I seriously doubted it. "So what's your lucky number?"
I'm not sure if I caught her by surprise or not, but she took a few seconds before responding. She glanced at me quickly then answered, "Six."
Six. "All women?" I asked out of morbid curiosity.
She looked at me, frowning slightly. "What is 'hmm'?"
I shrugged. "Nothing. So were you in love with any of them?" I asked, not sure where I was going with this line of questioning but not able to stop myself from asking.
"Does this mean I get to question you on the way back?" Valerie asked instead of responding.
"Yep. You may fire away."
She nodded, then answered. "I've never been in love."
As my street rolled into view, I focused on giving Valerie directions to the house. I wasn't sure why at the time, but her answer filled me with relief.
Valerie pulled into my mom's driveway and I noticed that my sister's car was already there. Rachel was always on time for everything. I, on the other hand, preferred to be fashionably late.
"Is there anything I should know before we go in?" Valerie asked, turning off the ignition and sitting back against the seat.
"My sister's a bitch and her boyfriend's a jerk but my mom's pretty cool when she wants to be." I smiled and touched her arm. "Don't worry about it."
We were greeted at the front door by my evil twin, whose gaze never left Valerie. It was then that I remembered that Valerie didn't know I was a twin. I looked over to study her expression, but was surprised to see no change. Usually people gaped, staring back and forth between us as though trying to make sure it wasn't their imagination. My sister was dressed in a short skirt that left little to the imagination and a black V-neck shirt. I thought she looked like a whore.
"So this is Valerie," Rachel said, more to herself than to us, and stretched out her hand. "I'm Rachel."
Valerie shook my sister's hand and we stepped inside the house. Rachel led the way to the living room, and I caught Valerie checking her out. I smacked Valerie's arm without thinking. Then the implication of what I'd just done hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd acted like a jealous girlfriend. Mentally I shook myself. If Valerie wanted to check out my sister then she was more than welcome to. At least, that's what I told myself. I never said I had to believe it.
Jonathan Green, my future brother-in-law the way things were going, stood up to greet us. He had a fake smile plastered on his face. The same smile he always used when he had to be nice to people he didn't particularly like. Needless to say, Jon and I weren't particularly best friends. "Hello Alix, who's your friend?"
"Valerie, meet Satan. Satan, this is Valerie."
Jonathan glared at me for a split second, then his fake smile reappeared as he stepped forward to shake hands with Valerie. "Jonathan Green, nice to meet you."
"Where's mom?" I asked.
"She stepped out to buy milk," Rachel responded.
"I knew I'd forgotten something," I muttered. "Shit."
"Don't curse, Alix," Jonathan instructed.
"I see you have yet to take that stick out of your ass," I responded.
"Only your kind of people enjoy that sort of thing," he answered.
I was about to lunge at him because God knew he deserved a good beating, but I decided to be the better man. Plus I didn't feel like getting my ass kicked in front of Valerie. I took a deep breath. "Would you like to see my room?" I asked Valerie.
She nodded, and I led her up to the second floor. My room was just how I'd left it, if only a little neater. I hadn't felt like taking down any of the posters when I'd moved out, so the walls and ceiling were still covered with posters of heavy rock and metal bands-mostly Aerosmith of course. The walls were black in the small spaces between posters, and so were the blinds. The bed sheets were black, my desk was black, my closet was black. To make the long story short, my entire room was black. I loved this room.
I dropped myself on the bed the second we stepped inside. "Sorry, he just gets me so angry I had to get out of there before I punched him."
"Guess he's not a big supporter, huh?" Valerie asked, leaning against my desk.
I turned over so that I was lying on my side with my head propped on one hand. "No. He comes from a very religious, very conservative family. We put up with each other cause we have no other choice. He's probably going to marry my sister." I smiled apologetically. "Sorry you had to see that."
"I've seen worse," she responded with a smile.
There was a knock on the door and I quickly shouted, "Come in." It was my mom, dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt. It always amazed me the way she looked so much younger than she was.
She greeted Valerie with a smile and if that wasn't enough, she even hugged her. I tried to keep my jaw from dropping. "It's nice that you could join us, Valerie," my mom told her. She looked at me for the first time. "Stand up, let me see your hair."
I'm not sure why I had to stand up for her to see my hair, but I did so anyway and she pulled me in for a big hug. It was then that I grew convinced that my mother had been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by a pod. Then I remembered that she'd started some woman empowerment classes and I figured that had something to do with it.
"I love the haircut," my mom informed me as she finally let me go. "Leave it to Jessica to give you a makeover."
I wasn't entirely sure how to take that comment, so I just let it go. "Thanks."
"Are you girls hiding from Jonathan?"
"Yeah, he's being his usual lovable self."
"Come back downstairs. He won't say anything with me around." My mom led the way, and we followed her back downstairs. "Did you bring the milk?" she asked, her tone revealing that she already knew the answer.
"I brought it in spirit," I responded.
Rachel and Jonathan were talking in the living room. I'm not sure what their topic of conversation was, but it most likely involved computers. They were both Computer Science majors. In other words, they were both big nerds. My sister got the logic/mathematical genes and I got the artistic ones. It was a fair deal, I thought.
"So how long have you two been together?" my mom asked Valerie, as she proceeded to work on fixing dinner. "Alix never tells me anything."
Valerie glanced at me questioningly and I shrugged. "Well we're not exactly together," she responded.
I felt my heart sink a little, even though I knew it was true. "We just met last week," I added as though that explained everything. I kept wondering how many dates we'd have to go on before we'd qualify as a 'couple'. "Do you want any help, mom?"
"No need to burn the kitchen, darling." She smiled at me sweetly, then regarded Valerie, and pointed at me with a wooden spoon. "Can't cook for her life."
"Hey I cook great spasghetti," I protested.
"Spasghetti?" Valerie asked with a smile.
"It's my own creation," I explained. "And I can bake."
My mom nodded. "That's true. She bakes great."
"Guess I'll cook the dinners and you can take care of dessert," Valerie said.
Had I been drinking something, that would've been my cue to choke or spit. I glanced quickly at Valerie then at my mom to catch her reaction. My mom was smiling to herself. I breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully, my sister and her demon-spawn chose that moment to join us.
"That smells great, Mrs. Morris," Jonathan said.
I rolled my eyes. I'd never seen anyone try so hard to suck up to someone for no apparent reason. Little did he know that my mom didn't particularly like him. She just pretended, like he pretended to like me whenever she was around. God forbid he show his horns around my mother.
"Thank you Jonathan."
Halo firmly in place, Jonathan smiled at me. "So Alix, how's school?"
It was uncanny how two-faced a person could be. "Well I haven't had much time to focus on my schoolwork, Jonathan. I've been too busy molesting little girls and sleeping with animals."
Valerie started coughing to hide the fact that she was laughing. My mom gave me one of her warning looks. Rachel simply scowled at me.
Jonathan continued to smile. "So Valerie, do you go to Baldwin too?"
"Ah, no I go to Miami."
Jonathan leaned against the kitchen counter so he could get a better look at Valerie. "Really. What are you studying?"
"Two starving artists, how nice," Rachel commented. "You two are meant for each other."
"Rachel," my mother warned. "You and Jonathan go set the table."
I was too shocked to comment. My sister had never been nice to me but she had always been nice to my friends. "Sorry about that," I apologized to Valerie.
Valerie shrugged. "I kind of think she's right. The part about you and me being meant for each other. I have no intention of starving."
I smiled at her and any anger I might have felt toward Jonathan or my sister completely dissipated as I stared into her eyes. "I love how you always know exactly what to say to make me feel better."
"It's a gift," Valerie responded
I almost leaned in to kiss her right then and there, but I heard my mom cough.
"You know I'm still here," she said.
A few hours later, Valerie pulled the Bronco II into the nearest available spot in the parking lot near my dorm. On the ride back from my house, Valerie had bombarded me with questions ranging from what color underwear I was wearing (black, if you must know) to which was my favorite sport (basketball, but only because Jessica played it).
Turning off the ignition, Valerie regarded me curiously. "I have one more question," she said.
I turned so I could devote my entire attention to her. "I'll take Nosy Women for 500, Alex."
Valerie grinned, then turned a bit serious. "Have you ever been in love?"
I was taken aback by the question, and for a moment I couldn't even think. When my brain returned to its upright position, I bit my lip and looked anywhere but her face. "Yes I have..."
I heard her sigh quietly. Then, "Are you still?"
I met her eyes at that moment and felt my entire world flip upside down. Was I still in love with Jessica? When had I not been in love with her? I couldn't even remember. If I said yes, would Valerie never want to see me again? If I said no, would I be leading her on? It was a complicated question, yet she was expecting me to answer right away. Didn't she know I never had my feelings in order? "I don't know what I feel anymore," I responded, and knew without a doubt that it was the absolute truth.
Valerie nodded thoughtfully. "I had a lot of fun today," she said.
I frowned briefly at the abrupt change of topic, but then welcomed it. "Have you not come up with anything more clever to say by now?"
"Guess not," she responded with a smile. "I'm an artist not a writer."
"Well, I had a lot of fun too. I bet you're anxious to get home to Loki."
Valerie nodded. "I am, actually."
I nodded, taking that as my cue to get out of the car. "Thanks for coming to dinner at my mom's. I really appreciate you doing that," I said, not really wanting to part ways.
I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to kiss her goodnight or what, so I waited a couple of seconds for her to make the first move. When she didn't, I took that as a sign, and opened the car door. I wanted to ask when I'd see her again, but I was afraid I'd sound too pushy so I refrained myself. If I were a mind reader, my life would've been a lot simpler. "Say hi to Loki for me," I said, then followed it quickly with, "Good night." I got out and shut the car door before Valerie had much of a chance to respond, then waved as I started down the sidewalk toward my building.
"I'm alone ... yeah I don't know if I can face the night ... I'm in tears... and the crying that I do is for youuuuuuuuuuu...." I sang miserably while staring up at the ceiling for no other reason than I didn't want to get out of bed.
"Alix," Nicole called, her tone not attempting to mask her annoyance, "if I have to hear that song one more time, I will shove the CD so far up your nose ..."
Sighing, I turned over and shut Aerosmith off. "I'm having an emotional crisis."
"When are you not?"
"I like Valerie," I said to no one in particular. "I really like Valerie."
I frowned, shaking my head. "That's the thing, there is no but. I mean, I keep thinking there should be but there isn't. And it's strange because it doesn't feel like anything I've ever felt before. With Jessica I was mostly just too busy hiding my feelings, monitoring every look, every word. I was so busy worrying about her getting freaked out that I didn't get a chance to really feel anything. But it's different with Valerie ..."
"So what's your crisis?"
"I'm starting to question my feelings for Jessica," I said, knowing it was true yet completely shocked to hear the words fly out of my mouth. I sat up and faced Nicole who was staring at me expectantly. "What if I was never really in love with her? What if I just told myself that I was because I knew she was safe? Or what if, I was at one point and then I just decided to hide behind the idea of being in love with her because I didn't want to deal with my own insecurities?"
Nicole sighed, leaning back against her chair. "Alix, I could've told you this a long time ago. You need to let the Jessica thing go already. You're going to lose Valerie if you don't."
I frowned at the idea of losing Valerie. I'd only just met her but suddenly the idea of not having her in my life seemed terrifying. "I'm gonna go see her," I decided, rising to my feet.
Nicole arched an eyebrow. "Don't you have class in twenty minutes?"
"Some thing are just more important," I responded, grabbing my keys from the desk. "Thanks for listening, Nicole."
"Like I had a choice."
I grinned and left the room. I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to say when I got to her apartment, but I'd think of something.
Half an hour later I was standing in front of her apartment door wondering what the hell I was doing there. I half expected her to open the door and find me standing there looking clueless. Then the possibility of her not even being home struck me and I almost hoped that was the case.
Still clueless yet brave, I finally knocked. When nothing happened, I knocked again.
She wasn't home.
I stood there staring at the number on her door as though willing it to change into an apartment in which Valerie was home. That didn't work very well. I'd always seen in movies how there always seemed to be a spare key hidden above the doorframe, so out of sheer curiosity I reached up to check. I found dust but no key.
Not exactly sure what to do next, I ended up sitting down against the door. I decided that I'd wait for a short while and if Valerie didn't show up then I'd take it as a sign and leave. But somewhere between me waiting and Valerie showing up, I somehow fell asleep. All I know is that one minute I was sitting there staring at the wall in front of me and the next, I was waking up in a strange room.
"Long night?" Valerie asked.
I blinked until my eyes focused on my surroundings. I was lying on Valerie's bed and she was sitting next to me watching TV on mute with the closed captioning on. I couldn't decide if I was more exhausted or more embarrassed. "How did I get in here?"
"I dragged you across the carpet."
For a moment I thought she was serious until I caught the smirk on her face. I sat up running a hand through my hair.
"Actually I carried you," she said.
I glanced at her in surprise.
"Good thing I work out," she joked.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" I asked, still not fully awake. I kept thinking I was dreaming because the situation seemed so unreal.
"Hey I tried, but have you ever tried waking you up? It's no easy task. Carrying you in here was the easy way out."
I laughed. "I didn't mean to fall asleep on your doorstep."
She shrugged dismissively. "Don't worry about it. It happens all the time. Girls fall asleep at my doorstep almost every day."
"Yeah I'm sure this is true in the fantasyland in your head," I teased.
"Ouch." Valerie feigned pain to her heart, then turned off the TV and regarded me curiously. "So now that you're conscious more or less, what can I do for you?"
I tried to remember if I'd actually come up with anything remotely intelligent before I'd zonked out from boredom, but nothing came to mind. So I decided to wing it. "Well, remember when you asked me last night if I was in love still and I said I didn't know how I felt?" She nodded, so I continued. "Well, I came to tell you that I know for sure that I'm not ... in love still." It seemed like such a silly reason to drive all the way over there and then choose to wait outside for her to come home, but it was important to me.
"So what are you?" Valerie asked carefully.
I had no idea. "Thirsty," was what I answered and she smiled offering me her hand.
"Well you've come to the right place."
I let her help me up and then followed her out of the room. Loki met me in the hallway and I picked her up. "Miss me?" I asked the dog, who in turn licked my cheek. I headed toward the kitchen. "You know, you could've opened the door for me," I informed the puppy. "Where are your manners?" I glanced up to find Valerie looking at me curiously. She stepped forward and offered me a can of Dr Pepper in exchange for the dog. It was a fair deal, so I traded. "Sweet ambrosia," I sighed, taking a sip of soda.
"Food of the gods," I replied. "If I were a goddess, Dr Pepper would be my ambrosia."
"And you'd be the goddess of what exactly?" Valerie put Loki back on the floor and leaned against the kitchen counter watching me with interest.
I thought quickly. "Well I'd be the goddess of Dr Pepper. My name would be Pepperite. Like Aphrodite, with a kick."
Valerie smiled. She paused for a moment, then asked, "So what made you realize you weren't in love any more?"
Full circle and back to square one. I sighed quietly, then looked up to meet her gaze. "It just sort of ... dawned on me." I bit my lip and looked down at the can in my hand. "Actually, my feelings for you sort of help put some things in perspective." I sort of mumbled that last part, but Valerie heard it anyway.
Sounding surprised, she asked, "What are your feelings for me?"
I wasn't used to talking about my feelings to other people. It was easier for me to hide everything because it's what I'd always had to do. So her question threw me off. It didn't surprise me; on the contrary, I'd been expecting it. But I had no idea how to answer it. So in the end, I offered her the truth, "I don't know." Knowing that wasn't enough, I added, "But I've never not known how I felt exactly. I mean, I'm never sure about most things, but I thought I at least knew how I felt about ..." I stopped to look at her, not sure if I should say her name.
"Jessica?" Valerie guessed.
It was my turn to sound surprised. "How'd you know?"
She shrugged. "Call it a hunch."
I took a deep breath, not sure of what my point was or if I even had one. "I guess, even though I am generally unsure about everything I thought my feelings for Jessica were the one thing I knew for sure. And then you came along and all of a sudden I've started to question my old feelings ... and I'd never done that before." I stopped, not quite certain that I'd made any sense whatsoever but hoping for the best. I'm not exactly sure what I thought Valerie would say ... but what she did was unexpected.
It happened so suddenly that I don't even remember how it started, but suddenly her lips were on mine and she was kissing me so gently I never wanted to pull away. I felt her arms tighten around my waist and her body press slowly against mine. My body responded in ways I'd never imagined were possible and I wanted nothing more than to remain in her arms forever.
I'm not sure how long we stood there, but eventually Valerie pulled away. Around me the world spun. I have no idea how I managed to stay on my feet.
"I... umm...wow..." Those were Valerie's first words.
"Umm... yeah..." Were mine.
We stood there looking at awkwardly at one another. And then we moved to the couch.
The first thing my eyes focused on the following morning was on a tack on the wall. I remember because I stared it at it for a very long time, wondering why I had never seen it before. The second thing I noticed was that my bed seemed a lot softer than usual. The third thing I noticed was that I wasn't alone, at which point my mind rose to full consciousness and I blinked a few times to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
I replayed the events of the previous night over in my mind and my face broke into a slow smile. Biting my lip, I rolled over to face a still-sleeping Valerie. Loose strands of blonde hair fell haphazardly across her face and I struggled to keep myself from clearing them away. Instead, I pressed my cheek to the pillow and proceeded to study her quietly.
It's so easy to look at another person while they're sleeping. While their eyes are closed and their minds unaware that you are studying every feature of their face, attempting to memorize it so that when you avoid their eyes later on in the day you can at least remember what they look like. I was sure that if I were told to close my eyes, I could've drawn Valerie's face to picture-perfect precision. It was a shame, however, that I couldn't see her eyes.
While Jessica's had been dark blue, a blue that was almost black in coloring, Valerie's were lighter, with little specs of turquoise in the mix. They were a nice contrast to her light skin, which wasn't pale exactly, but not dark either.
Her eyes suddenly blinked open and I knew I'd been caught staring. Valerie didn't seem to mind and she smiled as her eyes met mine. "Morning," she whispered.
I grinned back. "Morning."
"Guess it wasn't that difficult to get you into bed," she teased.
I arched an eyebrow and pulled the covers off both our fully-clad bodies. "Literally no....metaphorically speaking, however, you're going to have to try a lot harder than that."
Valerie smiled and leaned forward to kiss me briefly. Then she said, "Details details." She offered me her hand. "Can I interest you in some breakfast?"
I let her drag me off the bed. "Only if you make it."
"Deal. I don't want my apartment blowing up today." She laughed at the glare I sent her way and led the way to the kitchen. Once at her destination, she leaned against the counter. "What would you like?"
"What, don't I get a menu or something?" I joked, moving over to the couch in the living room. Loki appeared a second later and jumped onto my lap. "Make that two menus."
In the kitchen, Valerie opened the refrigerator. "I've got eggs, bagels, English muffins, and bacon."
My eyebrows shot upward in surprise. "Wow, you're really into breakfast huh?"
"It's the most important meal of the day," she responded.
"That's what they tell me," I replied. I usually found midnight snacks to be the most important meals of the day. But what did I know? I stood up, grabbing Loki as I went and joined Valerie in the kitchen. "Tell you what, you take care of the frying and I'll deal with the no-brain appliances."
Valerie stared at me curiously. "What are we making?"
"Everything!" I answered, putting Loki on the ground. "I'm starving."
A couple of hours later I stumbled through my dorm room to find a bunch of messages on my desk. The one night I'm not there and everybody decides to call me. Figures.
"Long night?" Nicole asked from her trademark spot on the bed. She was watching TV for a change. She lowered the volume. "I wasn't sure whether to be worried or elated. Guess I'll go with the latter."
I rolled my eyes. "Nothing happened, Nicole." I paused for a moment, then allowed myself a grin. "Well nothing much."
"Ah-huh. If nothing happened then how come you're wandering in here at one in the afternoon?"
Slight knock on the door, followed by, "You just got in now?" Jade asked incredulously, stepping inside the room. "From nun to hooker. That was a fast transition."
I frowned at Jade. "What are you doing here?"
"I was calling you all night," Jade answered, lighting up a cigarette. "So I thought I'd show up today and see how things were going. By the looks of it you were pretty busy last night, eh?" She nudged me and winked, crossing the room to sit on my bed. "Please tell all."
"Was it as good as you'd imagined, or were you disappointed?" Nicole wondered, leaning forward in her bed.
I felt as though there was a giant spotlight focused directly on me. Shaking my head, I closed the door and took a seat at my desk. "Nothing happened," I repeated.
"Nothing at all?" Jade pressed.
I bit my lip. "Well..."
"Spill it, woman!" Nicole insisted.
I decided I needed to get myself a set of new friends. The kind that minded their own businesses and didn't press me for personal information. Ha, right! Resigned to the inevitable, I finally answered. "Well, we kissed for a while."
I frowned. "And then we watched TV for a while."
I sighed. "Well then it got kind of late and Valerie suggested I sleep over. So I said sure."
Jade walked to the window to flick her cigarette. "That's it?" she asked, turning to face me.
"Well yeah." I smiled. "I wasn't going to have sex with her."
"Why bloody not?"
I shrugged. "Well for starters, I just met her. I'm not ready to rush into anything. And besides..." I trailed off, biting my lip.
Sighing, I walked over to my bed and lied down. "It would be my first time, and I'm kind of nervous about the entire concept."
Jade shook her head and flicked the cigarette out the window. "Maybe we'll just go ahead and get you that lesbian porn."
Nicole rose to her feet. "I see that no more juicy information will come out of this conversation, so if you girls will excuse me, I'm going to the student center to grab lunch." She grabbed her purse and keys and headed out the door.
Jade watched the door slam closed and laughed. "Wow that lesbian porn thing really gets her outta here."
Jade sat down at the edge of my bed and regarded me curiously, waiting for me to say something.
I sighed. "It's not the mechanics of it. I know what to do." I tried to pinpoint the exact source of my worries but couldn't. "I think it's more of an emotional fear."
"Are you worried your heart will overload?" Jade grinned.
Shrugging, I sighed. "Maybe." I let my head fall back on my pillow. "What if I'm no good? What if I'm so bad that all her feelings for me instantly evaporate at my utter incompetence in the art of lovemaking."
Jade cracked up. "You're a nut! That's ridiculous!"
"I don't think so. I mean, what if I'm like really bad?" I sighed. "I wish there was a way to test my abilities."
"I'm not sleeping with you if that's what you're thinking."
I nudged Jade in the leg with my foot. "Very funny. I was thinking more along the lines of those Seventeen Magazine quizzes."
Jade laughed. "Oh right. 'Lesbian Sex: Do you have what it takes?' I can just see it now."
She was right. It did sound pretty ridiculous and not at all helpful, but I still wondered if there was some way, outside of the traditional mode of information, for finding out. "Hmm. What about a psychic?"
"You wanna sleep with a psychic?"
"No! I mean ... go to a psychic. To ask them."
Jade raised both eyebrows and stared at me. "I truly hope you're not serious about any of this." She frowned. "Oh gods, you are."
"Well no." Not entirely, anyway. "Guess I'll just have to find out when the time comes."
Jade was quiet for a moment. "Do you think you'll sleep with her?"
My gaze snapped up to look at her. I was silent, then I looked a way and sighed. "I hope so. I've never wanted anyone so badly in my life."
I met her gaze and held it, shaking my head. "Not even Jessica."
I spent the rest of the day at the student center trying to catch up on some reading for my World Literature course. I'd been so busy balancing my heart between Jessica and Valerie that I'd totally forgotten about my schoolwork. I'd already missed a couple of days of classes in the name of love. Well .. . maybe not love. Obsession and infatuation was more like it. But those were the roots of love, no?
I managed to get through half of Fae Myenne Ng's Bone before my brain stopped accepting intellectual stimuli. On the way back to my room I gave myself a mental pat on the back for having been productive. I was at least ahead in one of my classes. One down, four to go, I thought.
My room was empty when I stepped inside, but there was a new message waiting on the answering machine. Pushing the door closed with my foot, I managed to press 'play' simultaneously. I'm not sure why I did that ... maybe just to see if I could. Anyway ...
"You have one new message." There was a short beep, and then Roxanne's voice filled the room. "Hey Al, just wondering what you were up to since I hadn't heard from you since the wedding. You didn't run off and join a convent or something crazy like that, did ya? Well anyway. Call me. Maybe we can chill."
Hanging out with Roxanne hadn't been on my list of things to do that evening but I acknowledged the fact that I had no plans with Valerie and thus had nothing else to do. Besides, I wanted Roxanne's take on the matters of my heart. So without further delay, I grabbed the phone from its base and dialed Roxanne's number.
"Peek-a-mon," came the response on the other line a couple of rings later.
I smiled into the receiver. "Hi Alisha."
"Peek-a-" Alisha was cut off mid-babble only to be replaced a second later by Roxanne's, "Hello?"
"Just got your message."
"Oh hi, Alix. Hold on." I heard the distinct sounds of a phone getting dropped on a counter, soon to be followed by Roxanne's voice in the distance. "Alisha, c'mon baby let's watch some TV..."
I waited patiently for Roxanne to return, busying myself by staring at the poster of Steven Tyler on my ceiling. It was the only poster I'd bothered to remove from my room. It was my favorite and it would continue to reside above my bed until my dying day.
"Still there?" Roxanne breathed a couple of minutes later.
"Yeah. How's Alisha?" The entire concept of one of my best friends having a four-year-old child was mind-boggling. I thought with time it would become less shocking, but it only got worse. It served an up-lifting reminder that we were getting old. Jessica was married, Roxanne had a kid ... Guess both of those were out of the question for me. I'd have to get creative if I wanted to compete. Like go through menopause at twenty-five or something.
"She's good. You know, PokÈmon this, PokÈmon that. The usual. What's up with you? You sort of dropped off the face of the earth since the big day."
Shrugging, I responded, "School keeps me busy enough." I was trying to think of a good way to introduce the Valerie subject.
"So I heard you went on a date ...?"
Or she could just introduce it herself. That worked too. "I've been on a few since then," I admitted, grinning slightly to myself.
Motherhood had not impaired her nosy nature. "Well what are you waiting for, tell me everything."
And so for the next twenty minutes or so I caught Roxanne up on all of the details. It would've taken less but Roxanne had to keep interrupting me to attend to Alisha. When I was through bearing my soul, Roxanne paused to absorb the entire story. I waited silently for her to comment.
"So are you guys an official item?" Roxanne asked after a minute of silent contemplation.
Frowning, I said, "Uh, I'm not sure."
"How can you not know?"
"How can you know? I must have missed that course in high school. Is there some kind of announcement ritual that I'm not aware of?"
Roxanne laughed at that. "I don't know. I just figured you would've talked about it by now. But I forget you're not one of those talk-about-your-emotions kind of person."
Now what was that supposed to mean? "I do too talk about my emotions. I'm doing it right now in fact. It's all I've been doing for the past seven years, or were you not paying attention?"
"Oh you talk about them to your friends, but not to the person your feelings are targeted on. Besides, you didn't whine about Jessica for seven years, because you kept your feelings hidden for three. And even after Jessica and the rest of the world found out, you still refused to talk about it unless it was forced out of you."
This wasn't at all how I'd expected this conversation to go. Why was she lecturing me? "What's your point, Rox?" I asked, a bit more harshly than I should've.
"Hey, calm down woman. I'm just saying that a lot of your problems would be solved if you'd just open your mouth once in a while and say what's on your mind. I mean, there was a time when one couldn't shut you up for anything, but ever since the Jessica thing you've turned into this shell."
My frown returned. I'd turned into a shell? "What?"
"Nevermind. Look, all I'm saying is that if you're confused, and I know you are cause I know you... then you should just talk to Valerie and clear things up."
She made it sound so simple. But I was willing to give it a shot. I didn't want to be a 'shell' anymore, whatever that meant.
"So when do I get to meet her?" Roxanne continued.
"Well she's probably at work tonight. I don't know when I'm going to see her again." I felt suddenly depressed at that realization. I should know when I'd get to see her again. Right? "I'd invite you to go to the club, but finding a babysitter at this hour..."
"Actually I had Zack on-call just in case you wanted to hang out."
I smiled. "Such a good uncle he's turned out to be."
"Yeah I don't know what I'd do without him. So do you want me to pick you up? Where are we going?"
"Well if you want to meet Valerie, then we're going to Las Olas."
"Great. I'll pick you up once I get everything settled over here."
"Sounds good. See you then." I said good bye and hung up the phone, wondering why I had just offered to introduce Valerie to Roxanne. I didn't even know where Valerie was. What if she wasn't at work? Would I go as far as showing up at her doorstep again?
Sighing, I leaned back against the wall. Only one way to find out.
An hour and a half later Roxanne and I had arrived at Whispers. It was about twice as crowded as I'd ever seen it so finding an available table took a while. As we walked through the mobs of people I kept my eyes peeled for any sign of Valerie but didn't catch sight of her.
"So which one's yours?" Roxanne asked, surveying the crowd.
"I don't see her," I answered, unsure of whether I was disappointed or relieved. "I wasn't sure if she worked tonight or not." In fact I had no idea when she worked. Although I through I remembered her saying she was off Tuesdays and Thursdays. So did that mean she worked all other days?
Roxanne shook her head then continued looking around, tapping her fingers on the tabletop to the beat of the music. "I like this place. It's got atmosphere."
Atmosphere? I looked around again trying to observe the so-called atmosphere Roxanne was referring to. All I saw were sweaty people jumping up and down and drinking and laughing while red green and blue lights flashed above their heads. The Whispers logo was a pretty blue color and I liked that, but as far as atmosphere was concerned I couldn't very well attest to its existence. A pleasant one anyway. Loud people, loud techno music .. not my scene at all. But I was a girl on a mission. Sacrifices had to be made for the greater good.
Bestowing my undivided attention on Roxanne, I was about to open my mouth to suggest we try Valerie's apartment but I suddenly took notice of the song that had just started. It was one of those bands that Valerie liked. I turned in my seat to glance around one more time. Chances were that I'd missed her in the crowd.
Then I saw her.
And the music stopped, the lights stopped, the time stopped, my breath caught in my throat and I'm sure my heart stopped beating as well. It was as if the world had stopped spinning and all that existed was Valerie and whomever it was she was kissing.
I blinked a few times, willing it to be an illusion, a trick of the lights. Perhaps it was just someone who looked like Valerie.
The music returned at full blast, startling me. And I heard a distant voice calling my name. It took me a second to register what was happening. I felt a hand on my arm, and I turned slowly to face a concerned Roxanne.
"Are you okay?"
I shook my head and went back to staring at Valerie. They'd stopped kissing. Valerie was laughing at something the woman had said.
I had to get out of there. Otherwise I'd start crying and I didn't want to cry. "Let's go," I told Roxanne, and walked out without waiting for her to catch up.
Valerie never saw me.
It had taken me forever to fall asleep that night and I probably would have slept through my entire Sunday had the phone not awakened me around one. I grabbed the receiver from its base, not bothering to open my eyes, and murmured a groggy, "Hello?"
From the other end of the line, I heard a breath and knew who it was instantly. By the time she said, "Hey," I'd already hung up the phone.
When it rang again a few seconds later, I turned off the ringer and slammed the receiver down on the base, making a noise which caused Nicole to lift her head from her latest novel. "Everything alright?" she asked.
"No," I answered harshly, turning over in my bed so that my back was to Nicole. I didn't want to talk about it.
"Suit yourself," muttered Nicole.
I lied there for a while, staring at the wall and pouting to myself. I'm not sure what I was feeling exactly. It was a mixture of things, jealousy and anger to name just a couple. In the midst of my introspection, I remembered what Roxanne had said about me not talking about my feelings and turning into a shell. I bit my lip, then turned over so I was facing my roommate. She looked up as I did so. "I caught Valerie with another girl last night," I told her suddenly.
The book was put away in a matter of seconds, and her full attention was bestowed on me. "Tell me everything," she said.
And so I recapped the events of the previous night as best I could.
"Wow," Nicole muttered when I was through, "I didn't see that one coming. How long were they kissing for?"
I shrugged, shaking my head. "I don't know. It all happened so fast ..." I shrugged again. "I just got out of there as fast as I could."
Nicole nodded. "Wow," she said again. "I really don't know what to tell you, Al. That really sucks."
Yeah, it really sucks, I remember thinking. It sucked a lot. I grabbed my bathrobe and headed off to the bathroom to take a shower. There was no point in going back to sleep, I'd never manage it.
Later, after a few hours of non-productivity, I sat in front of my computer and booted it up. I hadn't checked me e-mail in days and I wanted to see if I had mail from Jessica.
My box was full, as expected, but most of it was junk mail. I deleted everything except four emails. Three of them were from Jessica. The fourth one was from Valerie. I stared at it for a long time, debating whether or not to open it. She was probably confused as to why I was ignoring her ... but I was too hurt to care.
Still unsure about reading it, I decided to read Jessica's emails first. I opened the first one.
Alright so I decided to stop buying stupid things, and decided to get you tee shirts instead. Now, before you start whining that you will never wear a shirt that says Paris or Rome on it, let me just say that you won't be disappointed at all. Intrigued yet? Well, you'll see what I mean when I get back. Anyway, I hope that everything is going well over there with you and your new woman. How is she?
Well Matthew and I leave for Athens tonight. So I have to get going. See you Saturday! I love you .. and so does Matthew.
I didn't reply, and instead hit next to read the following message.
Hey I haven't heard from you. I hope everything's okay. Well, Matthew and I are now in Greece. It is beautiful here. For the Holidays we should plan a trip back here so I can show it to you. I think you'll love it in spite of your stubborn nature. What do you think? If you and Valerie are still together then she can come too. We'll double! It'll be fun. Anyway, we're off to do some more sightseeing and buy more tee shirts. Haha! Write me back, it's weird not hearing from you right away.
Alright, where are you?? I'm probably worrying for absolutely no reason but write me back and put me out of my misery. You know how paranoid I am about these things. I miss you.
I sat back in my chair smiling slightly. Jessica really was a paranoid being. I attributed this to her parents' "death." They hadn't really died, of course, but for three years everyone thought they had, including Jessica. It was one of those experiences you never recovered from, regardless.
Sitting up, I hit reply to the last message.
I'm sorry I hadn't responded to you sooner. I just hadn't checked my email the past few days. Everything's fine. You can resume breathing now. I'm sure that Greece is beautiful and I'll think about your offer to go for the holidays. But I'd prefer going somewhere more interesting. Like Australia. They have kangaroos. You can't beat seeing a real live kangaroo, Jess. And Koala bears. And the Crocodile Hunter. I mean, really. Does Greece have the Crocodile Hunter? I think not. It has stones and stuff. I think I'll pass.
Say hi to Matthew for me. I can't wait to see you guys when you get back on Saturday. I'm very excited about these mysterious tee-shirts of yours. Do they get up and dance or something? Well anyway .. I miss you too and I love you. Have fun.
Once that email was sent, I stared at my inbox and let the cursor hover over Valerie's email. To read it or not to read it, that was the question. I slid the mouse down the mouse pad, dragging the cursor over the delete button, and double-clicked.
Not to read it was the answer.
The following afternoon, I was sitting at the student center with Jade, working on a junior bacon cheeseburger from Wendy's and a Biggie Dr Pepper. Jade had turned vegan on me and so her lunch consisted of unidentifiable goop and a bottle of water. We were both equally disgusted with the other's meal choices and had no other choice but agree to disagree.
"So anyway," Jade was saying, "Did you and Valerie ever establish that you were in a monogamous relationship?"
I glanced up from my burger. "Well, not really. No. Why?"
Jade shook her head at me. "Are you even together?"
I frowned. "Well I don't know ..."
She rolled her eyes and took a sip of water. "You can't be mad at her for kissing someone else if you guys aren't even together. If you want to be in a relationship with her then you should tell her so."
Why did Jade have to make sense all the time. It was unnerving.
"Look, did it hurt you a lot to see your woman with that other chick?" Jade asked.
She shrugged as though the answer was totally obvious. "Well there you go. It was sign."
"Yeah a sign that you should get your butt over there and tell the girl that you want to be with her. Otherwise you're gonna lose her to that other chick and you'll be back on square one. Lusting over a now married woman. How pathetic is that?"
Very pathetic, I acknowledged, though not out loud. I sighed. "I just donít know if I want to be with her anymore. I mean, I thought we had something going, and although we never officially signed any monogamous relationship papers, I thought we were ... something." I put my burger down. I'd suddenly lost my appetite. "If she was kissing someone else then obviously she wants to be with other people. I can't just swing over there on a vine and dub myself queen of her jungle."
Jade shrugged. "All's I'm saying is that you should at least talk to her. Just because she was kissing somebody else doesn't mean she doesn't have feelings for you."
"If she has feelings for me she shouldn't be kissing other people," I argued.
"Ideally, no. But this is the real world."
"Well the real world sucks."
"I kind of liked the London cast," Jade joked. She caught the look I sent her and became serious again. "Look, Alix, I know where you're coming from but you have to remember that Valerie is probably not the sexual hermit that you are."
First a shell, then a hermit. Did my friends discuss these things with each other when I wasn't around? "I'm not a hermit. But I'm not a sexual vending machine either. A person can't stick their tongue down my throat and expect me to put out. I don't work that way." I was angry and I didn't want to be. "And anyway, that has nothing to do with it."
"Talk to her," Jade advised me.
I didn't respond. Instead I grabbed my tray, got up and walked away. I wanted to get my hermit-self back into its shell before I turned into queen crab.
Hours later I found myself standing before door number 418. Jade had been right of course, but it took me a while to come to terms with what she'd said. In the end, there was only the bottom line: I didn't want to lose Valerie.
And so there I was. Except that as I'd gone to knock I'd been hit with a horrible thought which had caused my arm to lower back to my side and my feet to take a step backward.
What if she was with someone?
Seeing her kiss someone else had hurt enough without me having to interrupt her in the middle of something more ... elaborate.
I bit my lip, torn between actions. I decided to think logically. It was Monday night, she was probably at work. And if she was at work then she wasn't at home. And if she wasn't home, then I had nothing to worry about.
"Isn't it beautiful?"
I turned to find Valerie studying her door in mock-appreciation. Then she smiled at me and continued, "When I first saw it I thought, 'That's the door I want to live behind.'"
She was carrying a few grocery bags and as a reflex I reached out to help her. "I wasn't sure if you were home," I replied, grabbing a couple of bags so that she could reach for her keys.
"So you were using your X-ray vision to determine whether or not I was in?" she asked, unlocking the door and kicking it open with her foot.
Under different circumstances I would have laughed. Or I would have come up with something ingeniously witty to come back at her with. As it happened, however, I barely managed a smile as I walked inside the apartment and closed the door. "You don't work on Mondays?" I asked, changing the subject. I put the bags I was carrying on her kitchen table and stepped back, giving her room.
She was putting groceries away as she answered. "I work in the mornings."
"I didn't realize people went to night clubs during the day."
"Well, Whispers is a restaurant-slash-night club. The bar is open during the day, however and that's where I come in."
"Oh," was my reply.
Her back was to me as she said, "I didn't think I'd be seeing you again."
Her comment caught me by surprise and I was suddenly at a loss. She chose that moment to turn around and I could see the pain in her eyes. I remained silent.
"Any reason why you've been avoiding me?" she continued. "If you didn't like my cooking, I'm sorry. I'll take some classes."
I felt like crying. I wanted nothing more than to forget I'd seen anything and just throw my arms around her and kiss her ... but I couldn't. "I saw you," I found myself saying. "At Whispers on Saturday night, with that other woman..." I studied her face for a reaction. Expecting to see guilt or shame .. something to let me know she felt bad about it. I wanted her to say she was sorry and that she'd never do it again. That it had been a moment of weakness or something corny like that. I would've accepted that excuse because I wanted to. However, she did none of the above.
Valerie started laughing. Then she took a seat at the table and shook her head, her laughter shifting into an angry sigh. "You saw that? Of course. She called you didn't she?"
Needless to say she'd lost me. My eyebrows furrowed as I stared at her. "Did who call me?"
"Robin. She probably plotted the whole thing." The last part was said more to herself than to me.
I blinked. "Who the hell is Robin?"
Her eyes snapped up to look at me. "You mean she didn't call you?"
"Valerie, I have no idea what you're talking about. I went to Whispers to introduce you to my friend, and then I saw you ... andó"
"So she had nothing to do with it?" she asked incredulously.
"What? No. Who's Robin?" Somehow this conversation had turned weird. And it wasn't supposed to be weird. At least, I didn't think it did. I made a note to watch more romance movies instead of action and horror ones. I'd obviously missed something.
Valerie stood up suddenly and grabbed my hand pulling me to the living room where she sat me down on the couch. "Okay, it's not what you think."
Well this line I knew. "It never is," I muttered under my breath.
"Robin Graham is my ex," Valerie explained, obviously ignoring my comment. "That's who you saw me with on Saturday. And I wasn't kissing heró"
"Could've fooled me..."
"Look, the woman is insane. She came to Whispers on Saturday and pulled me aside, claiming she had something important to talk to me about. Out of the blue she starts kissing me and I pushed her awayó"
I frowned. I didn't see her push her away, although I had looked away to talk to Roxanne. Then I remembered the second bit of information. "But I saw you laughing with her."
"She said she knew I still had feelings for her. I was laughing at her not with her." Valerie sat down next to me. "Look, Alix, I know it must have looked bad but I swear it's not how it lookedóat all!"
Psycho stalker ex girlfriends. This is where we started running for our lives. I had no idea what to believe. "This is awfully bizarre."
Valerie sighed and nodded. "I know. But why would I lie?"
Why indeed. "Well, I still don't know you very well. You could be a player for all I know."
"Want me to take a lie detector test?"
Not a bad idea, extreme, but not a bad idea at all. I sighed to myself, and searched her eyes, finding all the truth I needed right there. "I didn't really come here to demand an explanation from you ... "
She seemed surprised and a bit confused.
I ran a hand through my hair nervously and begged my mind to form the correct sentences in expressing what I'd come to say. "I'm sorry that I hung up on you when you called and then turned off the ringer and refused to respond to your messages or your emails. I was angry, but then I realized I had no right to be because we've never really discussed our relationship, or lack thereof. So what I came to tell you was that ...I would very much like ...the right." I looked into her eyes nervously, waiting for her to say something.
She was quiet for a moment, then ventured a small smile. "Do you have rules for relationships too?"
I laughed. "I've never really been in one so I guess I'll have to play it by ear."
She grinned. "Well, then I bestow you the right to be angry at me for kissing other women, although you won't have to exercise it often."
My heart filled with relief and it was all I could do not to jump up and start dancing with joy. "That's good," I replied, instead. "You don't want to see me angry."
"No, I don't."
I brushed my lips against hers. And that was the end of that conversation.
Continued in Part 5
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