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 spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday floating a few inches off the ground, unable to wipe an ever-present grin from my face. I didn't get to see Valerie either of those days, unfortunately, because of school and her work, but we made plans for Thursday night.
We met on the side walk across from Whispers, then walked the rest of the way to the beach where Valerie proceeded to spread out a blanket so we could sit on the sand. I stood off to the side of her while she did so, looking around the fairly empty beach. There were a few people with the same idea camped in various spots across the sand, but for the most part we were alone.
"Come here often?" I asked her, taking a seat on the blanket and leaning back on my elbows. It was a nice night for sitting out on the beach. Clear skies, nice breeze, wonderful company.
Joining me, Valerie smiled. "Yeah, this is where I bring all my girlfriends."
"Yeah? Well let me know when your next hot date is so I can kill her," I responded, grinning at her. Valerie sent a surprised look my way and I simply shrugged. "What? You think I can't play the jealous girlfriend role? I'll have you know, I won Best Actress in high school for my role as a jealous girlfriend."
Valerie laughed. "I don't doubt it for a second." She reached into one of the pockets of her cargo jeans and pulled out a can of Dr Pepper. "I picked this up for you a little while ago."
I couldn't help the smile that crept across my lips. I took the can gratefully and leaned forward to kiss her cheek. "Thanks. I think I'll keep you, if only because you supply me with my favorite soda all the time."
"It's all part of my plan," Valerie said, nodding and rubbing her hands together in an attempt to look evil and mischievous.
I took a sip and watched her carefully. "What plan is this?"
"Well I can't very well tell you that," Valerie responded, frowning slightly. "Disclosing the plan is not part of the plan."
"Is my pouring Dr Pepper over your head part of your plan?" I asked innocently.
Valerie laughed aloud and lied back on the blanket, staring up at the sky. She didn't say anything, and for a few minutes, neither did I.
As she contemplated the heavens, I stared down at the sweating can in my hands, wondering if I should bring up what I'd been wanting to bring up. There was so much about her I didn't know, and I wanted to know everything. But what if she didn't want to tell me everything? What if I scared her off?
"Tell me about Jessica," she said softly.
Her request caught me completely by surprise and I turned to look down at her face. She was staring up at me curiously. I took a deep breath. "What do you want to know?"
She shrugged, seemingly uncomfortable. "I want to know how worried I should be about her."
"Worried?" I smiled. "Well, seeing as she's married and straight, I don't think you have very much to worry about."
"And if she wasn't?" Valerie asked, catching my gaze and holding it as though searching my eyes for the truth.
If she wasn't? I frowned, unsure of what she was asking or what she wanted to know. Could I picture myself having a relationship with Jessica? Not one in the fantasyland that was my mind, but a real one? No. Not if I was honest with myself, as I hadn't been the past seven years. She was my fantasy. One that seemed to be ever-presently fading with each second Valerie's eyes bore into mine. "If she wasn't ... then she should be the one worried about you."
This brought a smile to Valerie's face.
Relieved that I'd said the right thing, I contemplated how to phrase my own request. In the end, I decided to follow her example. "So, tell me about Robin Graham." Just saying her name left a bad taste in my mouth. I quickly took another sip of Dr Pepper to wash it away. I looked down and caught Valerie playing with her tongue ring. Every few seconds the metal ball would probe through her lips only to disappear again. She was silent for so long I was afraid she had either not heard me or wasn't going to answer. I was about to repeat my request when she finally spoke.
"What would you like to know?" she asked, glancing up at me.
Valerie nodded and seemed to sigh. "Well, we were together for about a year. She was a bartender at Whispers for a while and got me the job there. Then she and Dean, the owner, had a fight and Robin got fired. That was about three months ago. Robin was really pissed and wanted to leave Florida. She asked me to go with her but I had school and I like my job at the club. So I told her no and that pissed her off even more. She always had this really bad temper. Anyway, she moved her stuff out of my apartment and disappeared. She resurfaced a couple of weeks ago, begging Dean to rehire her."
"So you lived together?" This new revelation caused the dull ache in my heart to worsen. I hated feeling jealous.
Valerie nodded in response. "Yeah, for about five months." She sat up on her elbows and glanced at me. "I wasn't in love with her or anything. Just lonely."
I nodded and forced a smile. "You don't have to explain." She didn't. But it made me feel better that she cared enough to do it anyway.
She took a deep breath and looked into my eyes. "Since we're on the topic of personal questions, can I ask something else?"
"Sure." There really weren't that many personal things about me. "You can ask me anything."
"What happened to your dad?" she asked gently.
My breath caught in my throat at her question and I looked away. "He died when I was twelve," I answered softly. "Cancer."
Valerie nodded and took my hand. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." I bit my lip. "What about your parents?"
The tongue ring again. This time she answered quickly, as though she'd been expecting the question. "My dad is still in Boston. I'm not sure where my mom is." She shrugged, and looked down at the blanket. "She left when I was two." Then without warning she leaned up to kiss me briefly on the lips. She pulled away and smiled, "It's okay. About my mom, I mean."
I nodded mutely, feeling shocked and sad at the same time. Perhaps we needed to stop with the painful memories line of questioning. Still, there was one more thing I wanted to ask her about. "What does your tattoo signify? The one with the broken hearts. I mean, why did you choose that one?"
Valerie smiled. "I got it when I was fourteen. It was a reminder to never fall in love."
My eyebrows shot upward. "Why?"
She shrugged. "When my mom left my dad, I saw what it did to him. He was heartbroken. Still is. I didn't want to end up like that."
"Seems to have worked so far," I told her, feeling depressed all of a sudden, even more so than I already was.
Valerie shook her head, sitting up so she was eye level with me. "It had been working." She leaned forward until her lips were inches from mine. "Until now."
And then she kissed me, taking my breath away. I lied back on the blanket with her on top of me, our lips never breaking contact. Her tongue parted my lips as her hands traveled down the side of my body. My mind we reeling. My heart was racing. I almost forgot we were in the middle of the beach.
Valerie pulled away hesitantly and smiled down at me. "Maybe this isn't the best place."
I grinned. "No, probably not."
So we left the beach in search of a better place. This ended up being Valerie's apartment, her room to be more precise.
We were kissing on her bed. We'd kissed before, but this time it was different. This time there was the promise of something more. I'm not sure how it had happened; how we'd made up our minds. Or maybe our bodies made the decision for us. Or maybe it was our hearts. Or all three of them together. But suddenly, it seemed out of my control.
"Does this mean I passed all the sex rules?" Valerie whispered, staring intently into my eyes.
I smiled. "What sex rules?"
Valerie laughed and rolled off the bed. I watched her walk over to her stereo, raising my eyebrows in silent question.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
A few seconds later, The Cranberries' "Dreams" filtered through the speakers. "Inspirational music," Valerie announced, heading back toward the bed.
She shrugged and smiled. "Actually it's the Boys on the Side soundtrack. It's on shuffle." She kicked off her shoes as she joined me back on the bed.
That's when I noticed she was trembling slightly. I frowned and stared up at her. "Are you cold?" I couldn't imagine how she possibly could be. I felt like I was burning.
Valerie shook her head and lied down beside me. "No. Just nervous."
I was taken by surprise. "You've done this before."
"Not with you."
I stared at her silently for a long while. I'm not sure what I was thinking about. Perhaps I was trying to figure out why such a beautiful woman would be interested in me in the first place, let alone be nervous about sleeping with me. Or maybe I was just swallowed whole by the intensity of her eyes. "Would it make you feel better if I told you I was nervous too?"
Valerie smiled. "A little."
"Okay. Well I'm terrified."
She laughed quickly and then kissed me, making me forget all about being nervous. Her lips traced their way down my neck as her hands made their way down the length of my body. Everything blurred. I couldn't even hear the music anymore, even though I knew it was playing.
Articles of clothing started flying across the room, and before long I was staring at a very naked Valerie. Just looking at her took my breath away. I lost track of where she was touching me and with what. I just closed my eyes and surrendered myself to the feel of her lips and hands and tongue caressing every inch of my body.
I don't remember every detail but I do remember screaming her name some time later. And some time after that she screamed mine. And at some point before dawn, we managed to fall asleep in each other's arms, both of us trembling ...but no longer afraid.
I'd always imagined the morning after to be something memorable and magical; a point in time designed to reflect back on an important milestone in one's life.
But it wasn't.
By the time my mind seeped into consciousness, it was far from being morning. In fact, the alarm clock beside Valerie's bed read 5:46pm and I blinked a few times to make sure I was reading it correctly. I'd never slept so late in my life. But at least I had good reason. This thought caused me to grin and I shifted my gaze from the alarm clock down to Valerie's slumbering form. Sunlight from the nearby window cast a soft glow on her golden hair. I thought I'd never seen anything so beautiful.
I lied there quietly for a long while watching her sleep. At 6:23 she opened her eyes slowly and stared right into mine. This time I didn't care if she'd caught me staring. A lot of things didn't seem so important anymore and it struck me as amazing that we'd only known each other a couple of weeks.
Valerie was the first to speak. "Good morning."
"Hardly," I responded, nodding to her alarm clock.
She half turned and saw the time. "Oh man." She turned back to me, looking sad. "I have to work at seven," she said regretfully.
Nodding, I shrugged slightly. "I know."
She leaned forward to kiss me and in one swift move lifted herself on top of me, slipping her thigh between my legs. I gasped and pulled away in surprise.
"Are you trying to make yourself late?" I whispered.
She smiled and shrugged. "That's your job."
I arched an eyebrow at the challenge and in a swift move of my own had her on her back. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Needless to say she was late to work. Three hours late, in fact. And I whistled proudly to myself as I drove back to school.
Instead of driving directly to Baldwin U, I made a detour and ended up at Jade's. I didn't want to be alone for some reason. Perhaps because I was too happy and too excited and needed to share some of my joy before I exploded.
At the front door, I hesitated. If Jade wasn't home then Aunt Fifi would undoubtedly sweep me aboard her sinking ship of madness and I might never get to shore. On the other hand, if I turned around and went home I'd have to sit in my empty dorm room staring up at Steven Tyler wishing Valerie didnít have to work so I could go back to her apartment. After weighing the pros and cons of each possibility, I decided to knock.
Aunt Fifi opened the door a few seconds later and I instantly regretted my decision. I hadn't seen the woman for a month or so, since Jade usually preferred to leave her house at all possible moments, but she hadn't changed much. On this particular day, she was clad in a grass skirt and a coconut bra, holding what appeared to be a piŇa colada in one hand.
I smiled and then bit my lip to keep from laughing. "Uh, is Jade home?" I ventured to ask, though this question very rarely received an answer. A helpful one anyway.
"Alix! What are you doing in Hawaii?"
Her learning my name had been a big step toward progress. Initially, Aunt Fifi had welcomed her visitors by screaming bloody murder and shutting the door in their face. "I came to see Jade," I responded.
Aunt Fifi shook her head and stepped aside to welcome me in. "She's still in Florida. I'm on vacation with my monkeys." She shut the door and pointed to the living room.
It looked the same as always. A brown couch facing a 13" TV set, with an old wooden coffee table resting in between. I nodded as though I was really seeing Hawaii and Aunt Fifi's imaginary monkeys. "They look like they're enjoying themselves."
"Yes, but they're bad boys."
"Most monkeys are."
Aunt Fifi nodded as though I'd said a very deep and philosophical thing. "Would you like some suntan lotion? I wouldn't want you getting burned out here." She handed me a bottle of SPF-100.
I spread some on my arms to humor her and handed the bottle back. "Thanks. Do you mind if I go back to my hotel room? I have a headache."
She patted me on the head and spanked me on the butt. "You go right ahead, sweetums. I'm just gonna go on ahead and get the monkeys back to their tents." She said the next part in a near whisper, "If you see the chickens, please don't tell them about the skinny dipping. They're very sensitive about that."
"Your secret's safe with me," I assured her, and managed to escape up the stairs as fast as I could. Safely on the second floor, I sighed with relief, then headed to Jade's room. I was even more relieved to hear loud music coming from her room. I knocked loudly so she could hear it over Nine Inch Nails.
I heard the volume lower and Jade shout, "I haven't seen your bloody chickens!" Then the volume went right back up.
I shook my head, smiling, and opened the door. When Jade saw it was me she turned off the stereo and moved away from the telescope. The girl had been obsessed with aliens for as long as I'd known her. She spent hours staring through the lens of her telescope in the hopes of catching some sign of extraterrestrial life.
Closing the door behind me, I looked around the room. It had been a while since I'd been there. As usual, X-Files posters covered most of the walls along with miscellaneous posters of aliens here and there. Behind me, her favorite poster of Jerry O'Connell covered the door. Her bed was more like a mattress thrown over large piece of wood which balanced itself on the four cement blocks at each corner. Next to that was the window and the telescope hanging partly outside. And to my left was the desk, which was a cluttered mess of books and notebooks. She had a laptop computer, too and a printer, but the computer was hidden under the piles of crap on her desk and the printer rested atop a black egg crate on the floor.
"Well this is a surprise," Jade said, grinning at me as she sat down on the bed. "What are you doing here?"
Walking over to the desk, I put the stuff that was on her chair on top of the stuff on her desk and sat down, swiveling the chair around to face Jade. I sat back and simply grinned.
Jade stared at me with a clueless expression for a few seconds, then her jaw dropped. "You didn't..."
My grin turned into a full-smile and I blushed.
She started laughing. "You little whore! I thought it was 'too soon' and all that other nonsense?"
This time I shrugged and said, "Well I decided that twenty years was more than enough time."
Jade leaned forward. "So? Was it good?"
Why did people always ask this question? It was like a reflex or something. "Well not that I have much basis for comparison," I answered, "but I have no complaints."
"Leave it to you to give me such a vague response," Jade said, rolling her eyes. "You're an actress, you should be more expressive."
"Want me to act it out for you?"
Jade sighed and leaned back against the pillows. She crossed her arms against her chest and studied me quietly. "So what's your crisis now?"
"I don't have a crisis," I answered.
"You always have a crisis."
Thinking hard, I attempted to locate any crisis sources laying about in my mind but I couldn't come up with anything. I shrugged. "I don't have any." I smiled. "I'm really, truly happy."
Jade made a face. "This is so depressing. Pretty soon you're going to be wearing pastel colors instead of black; giving Valentines' Day gifts on V-Day instead of setting the card shops on fireó"
"I never did that."
"No," Jade allowed, "but you thought about it." She sighed in an exaggerated manner. "C'est la vie. So, how are you going to tell Jessica that her seven-year reign over your heart has come to a brutal end?"
I bit my lip nervously. Hadn't really thought about that. Then again, it wasn't like Jessica hadn't been begging me to get over her for years. "She'll be happy for me," I responded quite confidently. "She wanted me to move on all along."
Jade shook her head. "For a lesbian you sure don't know women very well."
In the world according to Jade Cooper, Jessica was going to be jealous. She was going to be jealous while pretending she was happy. She was going to feign her love and acceptance of Valerie, meanwhile attempting to find the most insignificant of reasons to dislike her. Then she was going to try to convince me that Valerie was not good enough for me and eventually break us up.
On my way to Jessica's mansion the following day, I mauled over everything that Jade had told me the previous night. And although I had reminded her several times that it had been Jessica who had practically forced me to go out with Valerie, Jade insisted that she was right. But I didn't think she was. Jessica wasn't like that.
It was almost six in the afternoon and to be honest I hadn't been up for very long. My sleepover at Valerie's had screwed up my entire sleeping schedule. I'd stayed at Jade's until nearly three in the morning listening to her talk about lunar eclipses or something of the sort. By looking at her you'd never think that my best friend was such a dork, but she was.
At the circular driveway, I parked my yellow bug and jumped out. I looked up at the sky momentarily, stalling in spite of my excitement because I was feeling kind of nervous about seeing Jessica. It was a cloudy day for a change, making the air humid and hot. To make matters worse, there was no wind blowing in any direction. It was one of those days were it was best to stay inside until the Sunshine State went back to living up to its name.
Slowly, I made my way across the gravel driveway to the front doors, the rocks beneath my feet crunching loudly under the assault of my impending weight. As expected, Maurice was already standing at the doorway. "Hey Mau. Long time no see."
He nodded his reply, closing the door behind me. "She's in her quarters."
Thanking him, I headed across the large foyer to the master staircase and ascended two steps at a time. I reached Jessica's room a short while later and found both doors wide open. A few open suitcases lay on the waterbed, slightly sinking into the mattress, but Jessica was nowhere in sight. Out of habit and perhaps even instinct, I headed to the balcony and found her in her usual spot against the railing. As she turned, I gasped. "What did you do to your hair?" I cried.
Jessica's gorgeous black mane was gone; cut short, spiking up on the sides. She looked beautiful but I was in shock. "You don't like it?" she asked, observing my expression.
I stepped forward to get a better look and shook my head, smiling. "No, I love it. You look great. I've just never seen you with short hair before."
Jessica smiled and closed the distance between us. "I've missed you," she stated, pulling me close for a hug.
She always smelled like vanilla. I'd never figured out if it was some kind of body spray or her shampoo or both things mixed together, but she always smelled fantastic. I swallowed and forced myself to pull away from her embrace. "Where's Mathew?" I asked.
Motioning for me to sit down on one of the lounge chairs, she responded, "He went to visit the in-laws." She smiled at the term as though getting used to the idea of calling them that, which I figured she was. "And to give Nina and Sarah their gifts from abroad."
"And you didn't go with him?" I asked.
Jessica shrugged, then sat down in the chair next to mine. "I wanted to wait for you." She smiled. "Besides, I'm going to dinner over there later tonight so I figure they could live without me for a couple of hours."
I nodded, suddenly feeling strange. Later, I began to recognize that strange feeling as indifference. Jealousy is an odd thing. Even if you manage to control it, to push it to the back of your mind, it still finds a way to hurt you on some level. Like a sharp pain that fades quickly but still impacts you at that moment. I was so used to its ever-present hold over my heart that not feeling it was an odd sensation. It threw me for a loop.
"You okay?" Jessica asked, seemingly concerned.
Smiling, I started to nod again, then decided it was more convincing if I actually spoke. "So, where are these magnificent gifts you've been collecting for me all over Europe?"
Jessica was on her feet at once, moving swiftly into the room. A minute or so later, she was back, holding a really big, and really full bag. "Go nuts."
I took the bag and put it down on the lounge chair, sitting up straighter to make room. I looked inside and laughed out loud. "You weren't kidding when you said you were gonna start getting me shirts." There had to be about twenty or so tee-shirts neatly folded into squares. I pulled out the first one and unfolded it, expecting to see a picture of the Eiffel Tower or one of those '...and all I got was this lousy tee shirt' tee shirts, but my jaw dropped when I saw the picture. It was Aerosmith. "Where did you get this?" I asked excitedly, glancing at Jessica in surprise.
She was grinning. "We found this one store, purely by accident, and it was mostly rock and roll memorabilia. So we got you all the Aerosmith tee shirts they had, which were about ten different ones." She shrugged. "Well anyway, I knew you didn't have any of those."
I was already pulling out the rest. There were about ten different Aerosmith shirts that I'd never seen before in my life, an oddity considering my obsession. And about ten more that varied from Nine Inch Nails to Garbage to Marilyn Manson. I was in tee shirt heaven. When I was done unfolding and refolding my treasures, I leaned over the mess to hug Jessica. "Thank you so much. I thought for sure you were bringing me back snow globes or something."
Jessica laughed as she hugged me back. "Nah, I would never torture you that badly."
As I started putting the shirts back in the bag, I was aware of the fact that Jessica was studying me quietly. I looked over at her expectantly.
"You never told me how things were going with Valerie."
I was unsure as to how to proceed. Revealing everything in one sentence didn't seem like the way to go, so in the end I went with the subtle approach. "They're going really well, actually," I responded, resuming my task.
Jessica leaned back in the chair. "Really well as in ..."
Hesitantly, I answered, "Really well as in we're a couple now."
I could tell Jessica was surprised though she tried hard not to show it. "Wow, I really missed a lot while I was gone, huh? So how long has it been?"
This conversation was inevitable, so I sat back in the chair, ready to bare all. "Only a few days," I responded. "Since Tuesday."
Jessica nodded thoughtfully, absorbing the information. I searched her face for any sign of Jade's paranoid-delusional predictions but found no traces of jealousy upon her gentle features. Finally, she asked, "Are you happy?"
The question made me smile. "Yes. I really ... like her." Granted, I'd done a lot more than like her on Thursday night ... and then again Friday evening ....
Jessica caught the blush that crept involuntarily through my face and she arched a curious eyebrow in my direction. "Is there something I should know?" she asked. She was watching me carefully and I knew there was no way out of the situation unless I managed to lie, which I could never do. Not to Jessica.
I decided to go with the subtle, I'm-too-shy-to-say-the-words approach. "We .. um... you know..." I chewed on my lower lip and gazed over to see her reaction.
What sat before me was a very stunned Jessica. "You slept with her?" she asked incredulously. "Already?"
Nodding, I said, "Yep."
Once again, Jessica retreated into internal calculation mode. She was silent for about thirty seconds and then responded with, "Was it good?"
I suspected that I'd be answering that question a lot in the near future. Not that I was going to advertise the loss of my innocence, but news seemed to spread like wildfire in our small circle of friends. "Define good..."
Jessica stared at me for a moment then said, "Did you ....?"
"Did I what?" I knew what she was asking but that didn't keep me from teasing her. Besides, it wasn't everyday that I got to see Jessica Heart blush.
Her dark blue eyes narrowed at me. "You know very well what."
Grinning, I said, "I don't think I have to answer that question, Mrs. Collins."
She sighed dramatically and shrugged, saying, "Fine. Be a brat. What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Nothing in particular."
"Come to dinner with Mathew and me," Jessica suggested. "Bring Valerie if she can make it. I'd love to get to know her better."
"I'll run it by her when I see her tonight." Valerie had offered to cook for me that night. I was pretty excited about the entire thing. No one had ever gone through all the trouble of cooking for me before. Besides my mom, of course, but that didn't really count. "I should probably get going and let you get to Mathew's. You know how in-laws can be."
Jessica smiled. "Not really. But I guess I'm about to find out."
Yes, I thought, nodding to myself. We were about to find out a lot of things. Jessica with her new husband... Roxanne with her daughter ... and me ...? Well, I guess I was about to find out.
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