Disclaimers: Nope, sorry, can't say there are any. All of the characters are mine. I take full responsibility for all of their actions. Hmm ... On second thought ... I've never seen them before in my life. They just followed me home one day ... really ...
Violence/Sex: No violence, I don't think. I guess that would depend on what you mean by "violence" ... I don't think there is any. You can decide for yourself. And sex? Umm ... I'll go on the safe side and say there will be. But don't go suing me for false advertisement if you can't find any. It really depends on what you mean by sex. As there are people in some cultures that show their affection by licking each other's eyeballs, it is possible that my definition of sex may be different than yours. Mine may involve cows in ballet slippers for instance ... wait, that doesn't sound right ...
Warning: This story involves an in-the closet actress, online relationships, Puerto Ricans, the Spanish language, Starbucks coffee, angels, boyfriends, sexual relationships between women .. and a ton of other random things that poured forth from my artistic loins. If none of the above things interest you, then you may not want to partake in this little tour of my demented psyche.
Dedication: to you and you and you you and you .. to people living with living with ... ::notices there are people watching:: Ahem. Sorry. Too much "RENT" for me. Strike that. There can never be too much RENT. Unless it's the kind you have to pay. But my point.. and I do have one .. is that this story is dedicated to you. Thank you for taking the time to delve into my madness. What a brave soul you are .. muahahaha <coughcough>
Special Thanks: To Amber, Cindy, Camilla, Christy, Amy, and Robin. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I don't know what I'd do without you guys.
Write me: Cause I'd love to know what you think. I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Life felt more serious when cloaked in silence.
She watched the glowing numbers on the alarm clock, seemingly brighter in the darkness of the room. What she wanted was to close her eyes and surrender. She wanted to ignore the way time passed slowly, only when she remembered it was there.
But her mind was oblivious to her wishes. It was a mirror reflecting what she felt, but not controlling how she felt it. And her thoughts projected light onto the silver screen of unwanted consciousness: forcing her to think, forcing her to feel ...demanding her attention.
Julianne stared at the paintings on the wall, now dark and grotesque in the presence of shadows: strange how beauty was so easily distorted by the absence of light. She was growing tired of darkness ... of the pain.
Mistakenly, she had assumed that she could control it. She couldn't remember the moment when she'd felt herself falling, and let go. But she blamed it on the silence: the pauses, the comas, the breaths between words. All of those moments too intangible to mention had somehow convinced her that she could take on the night.
And now she realized why she had always opted for solitude. Until now, she hadn't had a clue what it meant.
- Disowned by family
- No legal marriage (Vermont?)
- No kids (adoption, artificial insemination?)
Kris stared at the computer monitor and sighed. Were there any pros to being gay? She couldn't think of any. "God, this is depressing," she muttered, closing down the Word document. Society sure didn't make it easy. How did Mark and William get up in the morning? Or Julianne for that matter.
She eyed the telephone by her bed. Was the actress asleep? Probably. It was nearly two in the morning. Then again, she wasn't altogether sure that Julianne ever slept. Still, if she called, the possibility stood that she would say things she didn't want to say.
Then again, if she didn't call, she would have to spend the rest of the night wondering if Julianne was still awake. Then at some point, the fantasies would start implanting themselves upon her subconscious, making her wonder dumb things like: is Julianne thinking of me? Or, worse yet: Is she dreaming of me? And the corniness of her meanderings would escalate until sense, logic, and reason would dissipate into oblivion, leaving Kris frustrated, annoyed, and more often than not, breathless and turned on.
She picked up the telephone and dialed.
Kris smiled into the receiver. "Did I wake you?"
"Not really. I was just watching TV. Is something wrong?"
"Only if boredom qualifies as a problem," Kris replied. She wondered if Julianne minded these post-midnight phone calls. She also wondered if there was any way of getting a recording of Julianne's voice. It was addicting. "Anything good on?"
"Infomercials," Julianne answered. "Let's see ... more infomercials ... news ... weather ... something with weird alien creatures ... a naked woman riding a horse ..."
Kris laughed. "Perv."
"Hey, I didn't make the movie," Julianne answered.
"Would you ever do porn?" Kris wondered.
"Sure. Right after Summer's End, I'm getting a boob job."
"I think your boobs are fine," Kris replied.
"How sweet of you to notice. I didn't know you were looking."
She knew she was blushing now. "So, how did shooting that scene go? The one we practiced." Kris noticed that the noise in the background vanished, and she wondered if Julianne had turned off the TV. Or just muted it.
"Well," Julianne began, "it started out fine. But then once Samantha and I started kissing, Naomi flipped out. She started screaming at Samantha, telling her that she was the only one I was allowed to kiss. Then, Samantha punched her. They started wrestling, and tearing at each other's clothes‹"
Kris rolled her eyes, but smiled. "Are these the kind of fantasies you entertain at night?"
"Well, sometimes they're wearing white shirts and crew people throw water at them."
Kris started laughing. "What is this? The naughty side of Julianne?"
"So what really happened?"
"I delivered my lines with astounding precision," Julianne answered. "And then I kissed Samantha like she's never been kissed before."
Kris decided that she didn't like Samantha anymore. Actually, she didn't know Samantha, but that only made it easier to dislike her. "Sounds good."
"So what did you do today?"
Well, I contemplated my blooming homosexuality for about four hours. And then I thought I'd call you, and confuse myself further. "Leigh and I had a pizza and movie night. Best friend bonding time and all that."
"Yeah, it was nice getting to spend time with her," Kris answered. "Though we really didn't talk much. Jeremy called about three times."
"How are they doing?"
"As a couple? Fine, I guess. Leigh seems happy, and that's good enough for me."
"What time are we leaving Friday?"
"I'll be picking you up at 7:30."
"It's going to be a long day."
Kris couldn't wait.
"Things are going to be kind of different in California. There will probably be a lot of cameras following us around. And I'll probably have to go back to being Julianne Franqui at times."
"Who are you now?" Kris wondered.
Kris didn't know if she understood the difference. But she had a feeling that she would soon find out.
"Are you seriously in love with Julianne Franqui?"
Kris sighed at the question, regretting having answered the phone. "Mark, I'm kind of busy at the moment."
"What are you doing?"
She sighed once again, this time in resignation. She took a seat at the edge of her bed, pushing the suitcase aside to make room. "I'm going to California with Julianne for the weekend."
"No fucking way!"
"She has to go to the premiere of her last movie," Kris explained, knowing there was little she could say to keep Mark's imagination from running rampant. Especially after the things she'd told him.
Mark gasped. "Oh my God, I get to be the uncle of Julianne Franqui's children. Pinch me."
"I'd do more than that if you were here," Kris told him. "Look, Mark. There's really nothing going on with Julianne. She's Julianne Franqui, and I'm ... well, no one. And well, we're just friends."
"Have you kissed her?"
"Of course not! Hence the 'just friends' part."
"Is she really gay?"
Kris groaned. "Please don't ask me to answer that."
"Meaning yes." Mark shrieked. "This is so unbelievable. So, what's your plan of action?"
"How do you plan on winning her over?" Mark explained. "Are you going to fake a nightmare so that she crawls into your bed in the middle of the night? Or wait until she's in the shower and then sneak in accidentally?"
She frowned. "I really have to get back to packing."
"Wait," Mark insisted, his tone turning slightly serious. "I kind of have to tell you something."
"What's that?" Kris asked, feeling impatient.
Mark hesitated. "Please don't kill me. But when you left me alone with Julianne that night at the club, I may have accidentally let out the fact that you were ... you know, questioning. And I don't know, but I don't think I did a very good job of hiding that you were questioning your feelings about her."
Kris froze. "What?"
"I'm sorry, I just found myself saying things. And I don't remember what I said exactly."
"Mark!" Kris yelled. "Please tell me you're kidding. What did you say to her?"
"I'm sorry, Kris. I really don't remember. I'd had a bit to drink. I might have not said anything at all."
"But you think you did?" Kris insisted.
"I think I remember saying something about you questioning your sexuality," he answered.
Kris' mind was spinning. Did Julianne know? She'd die of humiliation of that was true. "I have to go."
"Are you okay?"
"A little dazed."
"Are you mad at me?"
"No. But I am going to kill you."
"That sounds fair. Have a good time in California. Don't forget to get me a souvenir."
"Mark," she warned.
"Love you! Bye." Mark hung up.
Kris clicked the phone off and tossed it on the bed. "This is really, really bad."
"What's really, really bad?"
Kris glanced at the doorway to find Leigh standing there. She hadn't realized she'd spoken out loud. "Uh, I forgot to tell one of my professors I'd be gone on Monday," she fibbed.
"Oh," Leigh replied with a shrug. "That doesn't sound so bad. I'm sure can just email them, right?"
Kris nodded. "Sure," she agreed.
Leigh stood there silently for a few seconds, looking around. She nodded at the suitcase. "All packed?"
Kris glanced at the object, feeling an odd mix of emotions at the memory of her impending trip. "Almost. Julianne wasn't very forthcoming with what kind of clothes to take."
"So take at least one of each type," Leigh suggested. She brightened. "She might take you to dinner at one of those really exclusive restaurants. You'll get to sit in the V.I.P. section and get people whispering and wondering who you are."
The thought of that made Kris ill. "Do you really think so?"
"'Who's that hot girl with Julianne Franqui', they'll whisper behind their silk napkins and gold-framed menus."
"I meant the part about going out to dinner." Kris stood, walking over to her closet. She started searching through the contents. "I have nothing to wear to something like that! I thought we'd stay in and order pizza or something."
Leigh arched a brow. "You do realize this is Julianne Franqui's house you're going to." She walked out into the living room and came back a moment later with a magazine. She pointed to the cover, where Julianne's picture was featured. "Famous movie star. Ring a bell?"
Kris glanced at the picture. It was often hard to connect the two people in her mind. Maybe that's what Julianne had meant about having to go back to being Julianne Franqui for a while. But where did that leave Kris? She suddenly wondered if it was a good idea to go to California at all.
Leigh started flipping through the magazine. "How well do you think you know Julianne, Kris?" she wondered absently.
"What do you mean?"
Leigh shrugged, not looking up from the pages. "It just seems to me that she's led you into some kind of fantasy bubble where only the two of you exist. And that's nice and all, but she's still her." She whistled, and turned the magazine over so that Kris could see it. "Do you think they'll photograph me like this?"
Kris ignored the photo. She'd already seen it, and had consequently spent fifteen minutes debating on a cold shower. It had also led her to wonder if other people looked at that picture and felt the same way, which had resulted in a series of mixed emotions she'd proceeded to ignore.
"Earth to Kris," Leigh called.
"Ya sure?" Leigh questioned, closing the magazine. "So who's Julianne's mystery date to the premiere? The hideous creature from the MTV Movie Awards?"
Hideous creature? Kris made a mental note to ask Julianne about that later. "Uh, I have no idea, actually. She hasn't told me."
"What do you guys talk about, anyway?" Leigh wondered. "Jeremy asked me that the other night and I honestly didn't have an answer."
"Why did Jeremy ask you that?" Kris wondered.
Leigh shrugged. "Who knows? Little Nuyorican girl from the wrong side of the tracks hanging out with multi-million dollar celebrities. It's bound to spark some interest in the minds of the public."
"Since when am I from the wrong side of the tracks?"
"Just thought it sounded more dramatic," Leigh answered. "So, what do you and Miss Franqui talk about?"
Kris thought about it. "Everything. And nothing. We just talk ..."
"I see," Leigh said, sounding very much like she didn't see at all.
"You talked to her too when she was just Julia," Kris said defensively.
"Not really. I mean, we talked, but we didn't have hour-long conversations like you two do. And now we just talk about the movie. Nothing mind-boggling."
Kris didn't know what to say to that.
"What time are you leaving tomorrow?"
"Julianne said 7:30."
Leigh nodded. "Well, I'm going to take a shower. Jeremy's picking me up later. You sure you don't want to go? That cute guy is still interested."
Kris sighed. "No thanks."
"You sure there's nothing you want to talk about?" Leigh asked seriously. "I mean, I am still your best friend, right?"
"Always," Kris assured her, offering a smile. "I'm just a little stressed out. I'm fine."
Leigh smiled. "You're still a bad liar, but okay. You know where I live if you do want to talk about anything."
Kris smiled, and then watched the bedroom door close behind her friend. She stared at the suitcase. Leigh was right. It didn't make any sense that Julianne would invite her to her house just to sit around and eat pizza. But if a fancy dinner was what Julianne had in mind, Kris would have to sit that one out.
She stared at the suitcase and sighed. "God, please don't let this be the weekend from hell."
Julianne stared at the clouds outside of the airplane window, wondering how anything could look so unmistakably solid, seem so undeniably present, and still be like nothing at all. She was growing tired of illusions. Was anything ever simple in this world of smoke and mirrors? Or was it all just a matter of finding peace amidst the doubt.
"You seem pensive."
Julianne turned her attention away from the window and gazed into curious hazel eyes. "Did you have a nice nap?" she asked.
Kris nodded and let out a yawn. "I didn't get much sleep last night. Traveling jitters, I guess." She glanced around the jet. "It's kind of weird not flying with hundreds of other people."
"Would it make you feel better if I sat behind you and kicked your chair?" Julianne wondered. "I don't want to rob you of the experience."
"Maybe on the flight back," Kris replied in mock seriousness. "I wouldn't want you to go out of your way for my convenience."
Julianne grinned, and relaxed into the seat. In spite of all of the mixed emotions regarding her friendship with Kris, she was content at that moment. And maybe that was all that mattered in the end.
"So what were you thinking?" Kris asked suddenly. "When you were staring out of the window."
The question caught Julianne off-guard, and she struggled to find a quick way to get out of answering. But it was stupid, she realized, to edit herself so frequently. Did she really need to paint a perfect portrait of herself for Kris' benefit? If her feelings for this woman were real, then why couldn't she just be honest? "Um," she said, looking out of the airplane window again, as if the answers were floating alongside the airplane. "I was just watching the clouds. Thinking that they're deceptive."
Kris watched her carefully, her gaze drifting to the window then back again to Julianne's eyes. "Why deceptive?"
Julianne felt incredibly ridiculous admitting her meandering thoughts. She instantly regretted having gone with the truth. It made her feel vulnerable. "I was just being silly," she answered, hoping it was enough to deter the topic. "Are you thirsty?" she added.
"No," Kris responded. She glanced out of the window again. "Why deceptive?" she asked again.
The actress sighed quietly, then gave up trying to avoid the question. "Switch seats with me," she said suddenly.
"Switch," Julianne said again. "If I'm going to explain then you need a better view."
Kris seemed confused but switched seats with Julianne without further question. Once she was settled in the window seat, she glanced expectantly at the world outside. "What am I looking at?"
"I don't know. What do you see?"
"Clouds," Kris answered automatically, looking back at Julianne. "Will the questions get harder as we go along?"
Julianne smiled. "What do they look like? And if you say Śclouds' I'm going to tickle you mercilessly when we get to California."
A raised eyebrow was Kris' response, before turning back to the window. "Was that a threat, Miss Franqui?"
Kris smiled, but didn't reply. Instead, she took a deep breath and focused on trying to decipher what Julianne was trying to get her to see. "They remind me of cotton candy," she said finally.
"Why cotton candy?" Julianne wondered.
"Just the texture. They look soft."
"And edible?" Julianne teased.
Kris laughed. "You're not answering my original question."
"Why are clouds deceptive?" Julianne shrugged and nodded to the window. "I invite you to try and test your cotton candy theory."
Kris thought about it for a moment and smiled. "I see. But why is that important?"
"Why is their not being what they appear to be important to you?"
Julianne realized that was Kris' real question, and that was a harder one to explain. Or maybe not. Maybe nothing was ever really hard to explain unless you wanted to skid around the truth. "Because nothing ever is," she told her.
"No, what it appears to be."
Kris considered that. "Maybe you just have to look closer."
"Oh, my God, this is beautiful," Kris breathed, as she stepped inside Julianne's house. Her gaze immediately flew to the glass windows across from her. She could almost see the ocean from where she was standing. She tore her eyes from the view and looked around. Everything was so ... bright.
It was strange to look outside and see endlessness, instead of the usual shadows cast by buildings overhead. It made her feel like she was standing in the foyer of a palace. Or at least something out of an episode of MTV Cribs.
"You like?" Julianne asked, looking around. "It's not much."
At first, Kris thought that Julianne was being sarcastic, but then realized she wasn't. Julianne actually sounded unsure, self-conscious even. She glanced around again, amazed that two people could look at the same thing and see something totally different. "Well, I'm a little disappointed that the walls aren't lined with diamonds. And I suppose gold-trimmed tiles wouldn't hurt either."
"Your sarcasm is duly noted, Miss Milano," Julianne replied. "May I show you to your quarters?"
Kris gasped in mock surprise. "There's no butler?"
Julianne rolled her eyes and started walking.
"How about a maid?" Kris continued, following her hostess toward the living room. She paused to look at the view a little closer. The beach was right below. "This is like a dream house. I can't believe you live here."
Julianne turned around and glanced at Kris seriously. "You can stay here whenever you want, for as long as you'd like. Even if I'm not here."
Kris looked at the actress and smiled. "What fun would that be?" she asked. "But thanks." She followed Julianne to the guest bedroom and dropped down her stuff. "It has a balcony?" Kris walked across the room and slid open the glass doors that led to the small balcony. Warm, salty air instantly brushed against her face as she stepped outside. She stared at the view of the ocean ahead. "I'm marrying your house."
"You could just as easily marry me," Julianne replied. "I promise the sex would be better."
Kris' heart leapt up her throat. She could feel her entire body responding to those words. She's kidding. Laugh. She laughed, trying not to sound as nervous as she felt. What do I say to that?!
Thankfully, Julianne changed the subject. "I'll let you get settled. Come find me when you've gotten bored of the view."
"That might be never," Kris answered, with a slight smile. She wasn't kidding either. She could easily stare at the ocean forever.
"Then I'll find you, when I get bored of waiting." Julianne winked and walked away, leaving Kris alone with the Pacific Ocean.
Kris smiled and leaned against the railing, feeling the breeze in her hair. She willed herself not to think about anything; not the way that Julianne looked when she smiled or moved or breathed. Or the way her voice sounded when she talked or laughed or whispered. Kris didn't want to think about the way her body tingled when Julianne's was near, even when they weren't even touching.
Kris wanted, merely, to exist, peacefully, at that moment, without the complications of emotions, and strange body responses. Marry her? Better sex? Jesus. She's trying to kill me.
She stared at the water for a few minutes longer, then went back into the room. She hadn't really noticed it before, having been distracted by the balcony. The walls were a light shade of blue, with framed black and white photographs of unfamiliar landscapes lined across them. There was a double bed, neatly made, and a dresser with a mirror. Kris wondered how many guests Julianne usually had. She couldn't imagine that there would be many.
Kris took a deep breath and sat at the end of the bed, debating on whether to unpack or meet back up with Julianne. It was silly that she was already missing the actress when they hadn't been apart for more than fifteen minutes. For the sake of stubbornness, she decided to unpack. She was sure that Julianne wanted some time to settle in.
Julianne paced around her living room, feeling frustrated and anxious. Why did she return her mother's phone calls? It seemed silly now, though it had seemed like a good idea at the time. "I can't come over for dinner tonight," she insisted for the third time in ten minutes.
"You have yet to provide me with an apt excuse, Julia," her mother replied.
Julianne closed her eyes, knowing that her mother now had the upper hand. She never called Julianne by her real name unless she was reaching her boiling point. "I have a guest," she ventured to say hoping that perhaps that served as a proper reason for skipping dinner.
"What kind of guest?"
"A friend from New York," Julianne answered. "Kris," she added, if only because she liked the sound of the artist's name on her lips.
"Are you cheating on Adrian already?"
The question was so unexpected that Julianne was speechless for a few seconds, until she realized that her mother probably assumed that Kris was a man. "Adrian and I aren't a couple any more," she answered. "I forgot to tell you."
"Is that so? Well, I hope this Śguest' of yours is worthy of your time."
Julianne found herself smiling. "More than worthy."
"Dinner starts promptly at seven," her mother answered.
"The invitation is for two," her mother said, curtly. "Call it morbid curiosity."
Julianne didn't like the sound of that. Kris deserved better than to be a Śmorbid curiosity'.
"I'm going to hang up now, Julianne. You know being on the phone too long gives me a headache. Please be on time."
"Kris is a vegetarian," Julianne blurted, feeling resigned.
"I'll inform the cook. See you tonight."
"Bye." Julianne waited for her mother to hang up first, then shut off her phone. Dinner was bound to be a nightmare. She turned around to find Kris looking at the view outside. It was strange how one person could make her feel both jarred and peaceful all in the same instance. Was love always so conflicting?
Kris looked away from the windows as Julianne approached. "Is my being a vegetarian a hot topic of conversation these days?" she asked. Then shook her head. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to eavesdrop."
Julianne looked outside for a moment, at the ocean and the sky, feeling momentarily panicked by the concept of Kris meeting her family. "Would you be at all interested in attending dinner at my parents' house?"
She looked slightly shocked, but tried to cover it. "I'd love to."
"I must warn you that they are evil people," Julianne said, her tone light, though she meant the words. "My mother and sister, especially. They make Satan cower."
"I'm sure you're exaggerating," Kris replied with a grin.
Julianne shrugged, giving up. "You'll see. I apologize in advance for the traumatizing experience you'll probably go through."
"Are you trying to scare me?" Kris asked good-naturedly.
"Is it working?" Julianne asked hopefully.
"No," Kris answered after a moment of consideration. "I think now I'm just morbidly curious."
Julianne flinched, recalling her mother's wording. There was something disturbing about her mother and Kris using similar phrasing. Or maybe it was fitting to the occasion. Only tonight's events would tell. "Funny you should say that."
"Apparently, my mother feels the same way about meeting you," Julianne admitted.
This seemed to confuse Kris, who frowned slightly. "Why would she be morbidly curious to meet me?"
Julianne shrugged. "Probably because genuine interest in anything besides money and gossip eludes her. Plus the fact that she probably thinks we're dating. And that you're a guy."
"Well that's a nice twist," Kris replied, smiling. "Does that mean you want me to show up to dinner in drag?"
The thought made her smile. She couldn't imagine what her mother's reaction to that would be. "I think I like you better like this, actually."
"Well I haven't seen you in drag yet to compare," Julianne teased.
"Good point," Kris conceded. "So, why would your mother think we were dating?"
"Well, I didn't really correct her when I suspected that's what she assumed..." Julianne wasn't sure what Kris would make of that admission.
"Are you trying to give your mother a heart attack, Julianne?" Kris asked. "Cause if you are, and she really is as evil as you say, I'd gladly pretend to be your girlfriend for the evening." She winked.
Julianne wanted to laugh at the idea, but it was hard to ignore the pang of disappointment that accompanied hearing the word Śpretend.' "She really is that evil. But, I suppose there's no need to kill the woman." She smiled.
Kris smiled back, but didn't say anything, her attention once again on the view outside.
Julianne tried not to stare, tried not to focus on the emotions coursing through her. If she had had any ounce of courage she would've told Kris that she didn't want her to pretend to be anything. That she'd take the real thing any day. But how could she put into words this emotional desperation she was lost in? "Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Not really," Kris replied, glancing at Julianne. "My nerves are a little wired from all of the excitement."
It was often the case that Julianne would have to step outside of herself, and into Kris' shoes in order to understand what Kris was trying to say. It was easy to forget that her life was not ordinary. It worried her, trying to figure out how they could fit in each other's world, if it was even possible to merge them. This friendship between them, how long could it last?
The actress looked at Kris, momentarily startled. "Sorry?"
There was concern in the hazel eyes. "Are you alright?"
"Just a lot on my mind," she replied.
Kris nodded. "Are you nervous about the premiere?"
The premiere? Julianne had nearly forgotten that's the reason she was there. "Um, partly," she answered, though it was the least of her concerns. "Do you want to go down to the beach?"
Kris' eyes lit up at the suggestion. "I'd love to. I haven't been to the beach in ages."
Strange the things one takes for granted when living by the sea. But Julianne was secretly pleased that she could make Kris happy. She loved her enthusiasm and her appreciation of the things that Julianne barely noticed she had. It made Julianne want to take notice. It made her want to wrap everything up with a big red bow and hand it over to Kris.
Maybe. Maybe some day. She liked to pretend there was hope.
Kris had never seen a house so beautiful up close. She'd been watching it attentively from her seat in Julianne's limousine. The closer they got to it, the more breathtaking it became. Kris felt a lump in her throat at the realization that this was her destination. It seemed too beautiful to be real. She turned to look at Julianne, to share her thoughts, but the actress was in the middle of what sounded like an important conversation.
Not wanting to intrude, Kris leaned her head against the window and lost herself in the images flying past. It felt almost like a fairy tale, being in Julianne's world. Manhattan seemed so far away at that instance. It was as though she had stepped into an alternate reality, and this was now her life. She lifted her head, glancing at Julianne for a moment before returning her gaze to the outside world.
Except, it wasn't her life. She was fully aware of that. This was just a snippet, a peek at something outside of her sphere of existence. She was merely getting to taste a free sample of success.
"Ah, home sweet hell," Julianne laughed, leaning against Kris to look out of the window.
Kris loved the heat of Julianne's body. She wanted to lean into it, to feel more. Why did simple contact feel so complicated? "It's beautiful," Kris said, trying to concentrate on the scenery.
"It's pompous and pretentious," Julianne said. "They always have the lights on in all of the windows so it looks more majestic. My mother's idea."
"Sounds like a large electric bill," Kris said, though she couldn't even imagine how large.
Julianne sat back, reclaiming her previous spot near the opposite window. "I don't think my mother has ever seen a bill."
Kris noted that Julianne's tone was more matter-of-fact than judgmental. She wondered if Julianne herself had ever looked at a bill. It didn't seem likely, given Julianne's smooth transition from spoiled rich kid to super stardom. Luck seemed unevenly distributed among the masses.
The limousine rolled to a stop, and the chauffeur stepped out to open the door for them. Once outside, Kris stared up at the mansion with an uneasy feeling. She had no idea what to expect. But she wanted to meet Julianne's family; she wanted to see, first hand, what Julianne grew up with.
"Ready?" Julianne asked.
Kris glanced up at her and offered a brief smile. "I don't know. Are you?"
"Never," Julianne replied. She glanced up at the house and sighed. "Let's get this over with. Whatever you do, don't look directly into my mother's eyes."
Kris smiled, relaxing slightly, and followed Julianne toward the front door. Before they had a chance to knock, a woman who looked like an exact replica of Julianne, if quite a bit older and with short hair, opened the door.
"Opening doors now, mother?" Julianne commented. "That's new. I didn't think you knew how."
Julianne's mother didn't reply, her gaze on Kris.
Kris shifted uncomfortably under the woman's intense gaze, but didn't look away. She didn't want to appear intimidated.
After a few seconds, blue eyes shifted to Julianne's. "Are you going to introduce your guest, Julianne? Where are your manners?"
"Mother, this is Kris. Kris, this is my mother."
"You may call me Susan," her mother said, turning her back to them and starting into the house.
Kris glanced at Julianne with a raised eyebrow.
"After you," Julianne indicated with a wave of her arm. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Kris smiled and stepped into the grand foyer. If the woman wanted attitude, Kris would show her attitude.
Julianne listened to the clattering of silverware against the bottom of plates. The noise, while rhythmic, only served to grate at her nerves. She wanted to take Kris' hand and lead her friend out of there. It was too quiet. The lack of conversation bothered her.
Finally, it was Julianne's sister that broke the silence. "So what happened with Adrian?"
Susan glanced up from her plate, seemingly torn between telling Jan to be quiet, and genuinely curious to know Julianne's response. She opted for curiosity. "Yes, Julianne, what did happen?"
Julianne could feel all eyes watching her; her mother's, Jan's, and even Kris'. She didn't want to lie in front of Kris. She didn't want to pretend anymore, or formulate any more stories to conceal the truth. But what would admitting the truth accomplish? "I'm not in love with him," she finally answered.
"So who are you in love with?" Jan asked.
The question made Julianne freeze. She didn't know how to answer it without lying. "What makes you think I'm in love with anyone?" she countered, trying to stall, hoping the question would dissipate into nothingness.
Jan shrugged. "Are you?"
"Guess you'll have to tune into Entertainment Tonight just like everyone else," Julianne replied, rather proud of herself for avoiding the question.
Resigned, Jan turned to Kris. "Mom was sure you were Julianne's new boyfriend," she informed. "She had the staff cleaning the entire house in preparation of your arrival."
"Jan," Susan warned, clearly embarrassed by her youngest daughter's revelation. "So, Kris, are you in the film with Julianne?"
Kris appeared momentarily thrown by the sudden attention. "No, I'm an art student at NYU. My roommate is in the film, though."
"Kris is a very talented artist," Julianne supplied, jumping at any chance to boast about her friend's talents.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" Jan asked curiously.
"Is that all you ever think about?" Julianne asked, annoyed by her sister's questions.
Jan ignored Julianne's question and focused her attention on awaiting Kris' response.
Kris shook her head slightly and said, "I did. But we broke up."
"Why?" Jan asked.
"None of your business!" Julianne said.
"Julianne," Susan chastised.
Jan looked annoyed. "I'm free to have a conversation with your friend if I want to. You don't own her. She's perfectly welcome to tell me to shut up whenever I cross the line."
Frustrated and more than a little angry, Julianne tightened her jaw, but didn't say anything. Jan was right, as much as she hated to admit it. Kris was fully capable of taking care of herself.
"I wasn't in love with him," Kris answered, if only to put a stop to the quarreling.
"Seems to be going around," Jan commented, glancing at Julianne.
"It can't be easy," Susan interjected, "being an artist in New York."
Kris shrugged. "It's not really easy being anyone anywhere."
Susan stared at Kris for a moment. "Well, I suppose you would know about struggle. I have always admired your people."
Julianne snapped her head to look at her mother. She stared, disbelieving.
Kris calmly took a sip of her drink and looked at Susan. "What people would that be?"
Susan waved her hand in a circular gesture as if to indicate that by 'people' she meant one giant entity: the all-encompassing minority. "Hispanics. I watch it on TV all of the time. Those poor people getting rescued from their rafts." She shook her head and took a sip of wine. "Frankly, I can't imagine how they manage it. Did your family arrive here by such means?"
Jan stifled a laugh.
Kris smiled. "Yes, of course. Us Puerto Ricans escape the island by raft all of the time."
"So it's a common thing in your culture then?" Susan wondered. "Amazing what people get used to."
Julianne wanted, desperately, to bang her head against the table, and pray that this was all a bad dream. She had known that her mother was evil, but ignorant and stupid, too? "They're a commonwealth, mother. I'm certain airplanes are a tad more convenient."
Susan absorbed this information from behind her glass of wine. Her blue eyes darted to Kris and narrowed slightly. It was clear to Julianne that her mother did not appreciate being corrected by her daughter. Especially when it resulted in personal embarrassment. It was also clear to Julianne, that Kris' sarcasm was equally unappreciated. "Seems unfair, then, that affirmative action would still include you as a participant, no? Puerto Ricans must feel very high and mighty, having the best of both worlds."
The humor left Kris' eyes. "What seems unfair, ma'am, is that your idiocy is allowed to take residence in such a beautiful home as this. I'm certain that the size of this mansion is in compensation for the size of your brain."
Jan burst out laughing but hid it with a large, dramatic cough.
Susan's mouth hung open slightly, then shut quickly. Unable to reply, she took another sip of wine.
Julianne cleared her throat, mostly to keep from laughing herself. Kris had told off her mother. Kris. She was nearly giddy with amusement, and slightly frozen from the shock. "Well, thanks for dinner, mother," she said, rising. "Kris and I have some matters to attend to."
Kris rose as well, her gaze cast downward, as if she were just now realizing that she, Kris Milano, had just called Julianne Franqui's mother, stupid.
"Julianne," Susan said sternly, yet with an eerie calm. "Could I speak to you privately?"
It wasn't really a question. Julianne glanced quickly at Kris. "I'll meet you in the limo."
Thankful that she got to wait outside, Kris nodded, and started toward the front door. She turned around, only, to offer a polite nod to Jan.
Julianne watched Kris leave and then, resigned, followed her mother into the next room.
"I don't want you anywhere near that ... that..." Her mother's voice trailed off, anger replacing her cool demeanor.
"Her name is Kris," Julianne said, starting to get angry herself. She couldn't believe the things her mother had said. "Rafts, mother?"
"She should feel thankful she didn't need one," Susan retorted. "Those people are never appreciative. We allow them in our country and all they do is complain."
"Do you hear yourself?" Julianne demanded.
Susan shrugged her slender shoulders. "I donate to their charities. I know what goes on. And that ... whatever she is, is never allowed in this house again."
"Like she'd want to come back!" Julianne yelled.
"Julianne, I'm not going to say this again. I don't want you associating with such low-class filth!"
Julianne had never felt so angry in her life. The nerve of her mother! How dare she! "You no longer get to dictate my life."
"I'm not speaking about your life, Julianne," Susan said, her voice returning to calm, comforted by the knowledge that she'd make Julianne lose her cool. "Don't get dramatic."
"Kris is my life," Julianne answered, not even shocked by the easy way the words slipped from her lips.
Susan didn't even blink. "Stop speaking nonsense."
"It's not nonsense, mother," Julianne replied, her anger fueling her courage. "It's the truth. I'm gay. A queer, dyke, whatever you wish to call me. And I'm in love with Kris. Deny it, accept it, I don't give a damn." With that, she turned on her heels and headed toward the nearest exit.
Kris paced alongside the limo, feeling adrift in a sea of mixed emotions. How had she come to lose control? It was so unlike her, so terribly alien to her personality to speak her thoughts aloud. And yet, the words had come tumbling out of her mouth before she'd had a chance to stop them.
But it wasn't regret that she felt then, standing at the foot of majestic perfection. Glancing up at the tower of grandiosity which housed the key to her unveiling. It was something more specific than regret. She had entered the mansion with a sense of awe and fascination, and left it with a sense of pity so profound that it took her moments to define the emotion.
Kris now understood the balance of the world. She had been wrong in thinking it unfair that Julianne should have so much: beauty, fame, fortune. The superficial luxuries of life, so easy to mistake for blessings and endowments, now seemed to Kris as mere substitutes for the true miracles of being.
How could Julianne have survived so many years in the company of such cold indifference? It didn't seem fair that someone should be robbed the comforts of a loving home, however elegantly disguised between the folds of velvet ensembles and gold-rimmed perfection.
Anger replaced pity.
The ocean breeze stung her lips, and she licked away the salt, wondering for an instant if she was crying without realizing it. Despite her anger, the thought of facing Julianne filled Kris with dread. The fact remained that she had overstepped her boundaries at dinner, and the possibility that Julianne would be upset stood out firmly in Kris' mind.
The sound of footsteps caught Kris' attention, and she felt her breath catch.
"We should get out of here," Julianne said, in a tone that begged definition. It wasn't one that Kris had ever heard before.
Startled at the sudden apparition of the actress, Kris was rendered mute. Without a word, she followed Julianne into the limousine. They sat quietly, listening to the sounds of the engine starting, distracted by the suddenness of motion.
"I'm sorry," Julianne said, the words smooth and cool against the hardness of silence. "I didn't think it would get that bad."
Kris had been prepared for anything but an apology. Her mind failed to come up with an apt response.
Julianne glanced at her, then looked away. "I understand if you want to go back to New York."
The backward nature of the conversation threw Kris for a loop. Why would Julianne think she'd want to leave? "I'm the one who should be sorry," she finally said. "I didn't mean to insult your mother like that. It was completely rude and--"
"Well-deserved," Julianne finished, looking at Kris once again. "It is she who should feel sorry." She smiled. "I'd never seen you so forthcoming before. I should make you angry sometime."
Kris grinned, letting the sweetness of relief course through her. "I think it would be wiser if you didn't, Miss Franqui. Who knows what uncensored things might escape into the night?"
"Well, now my curiosity is peaked."
Kris smiled, feeling the overwhelming need to hug the actress. But she merely crossed her arms against her chest and settled back into the seat.
Julianne had missed the sound of the waves. She had missed the midnight walks down the shore; standing barefoot and carefree in the wet, slick sand; sinking with each footstep only to emerge and sink again. It was only in the presence of such factors that she realized what a huge part of her daily existence had been missing.
It felt nice, now, to sit in the quiet solitude of night, and stare, undisturbed, at the rhythmic pattern of the waves. She wanted to stay there forever, away from her mother, the public, her friends.
Away from Kris...
Julianne wondered how much longer she could last without confessing. Fear of losing Kris' friendship was starting to become more of an excuse than a reason. Would rejection be so bad? She could move on from that; to what, she wasn't sure, but it had to be better than letting her emotions fester away in a deep vault of longing. Anything had to be better than this.
Sighing, she leaned back on her elbows. She had always considered herself a confident person. All of her life she had gone after what she wanted, so why not this time? What was so terrifying about the word 'no'?
Kris had been watching Julianne for a while. It hadn't been her intention to run into the actress at the beach. They had both said their good nights. They were both supposed to be sleeping.
And Kris had tried. She had stared up at the ceiling, watching the darkness argue with the light. She had listened to the waves, attempting to find a rhythm that would soothe her. She had even counted 484 sheep before reaching the conclusion that sleep would never come.
So she had gone for a walk, and stumbled, quite unexpectedly, upon the form of Julianne Franqui. In a moment of irrational panic, she had hidden. And now she felt ridiculous, like a voyeur. Like a ridiculous voyeur.
Still, she didn't reveal herself. It was far too tempting to remain hidden, to observe Julianne in her natural sate, without having to worry about staring too hard or too long. Even if she felt a little creepy, looming in the shadows like a crazy stalker.
Kris wanted to be brave. She wanted to walk up to Julianne and tell her, flat out, that her feelings ran deeper than simple friendship. That she was desperate to kiss her, even though the thought was as terrifying as it was exciting. Kris wanted to let it all out, to confess it all. Maybe then, after the rejection that was sure to follow, she could move on. She was tired of driving herself insane with fantasies and what-if scenarios.
But she wasn't that brave. She could never say those things, even though she wanted to. Although, she would've never imagined saying the things she'd said to Julianne's mother. So, maybe there was a chance.
Kris let her attention drift back to the figure a few yards away. Life would be so much easier if people came with thought bubbles.
The footsteps startled her out of her thoughts. And she turned, surprised to find Kris walking toward her. She'd figured the artist was asleep. "How'd you know I'd be here?" she wondered.
Kris looked at her for a moment and then sat down. "What makes you think I was looking for you?" she teased.
"Couldn't sleep?" Julianne guessed.
"No," Kris admitted, staring out at the ocean. "I guess it's just been an overwhelming day."
Julianne nodded. Overwhelming indeed. She still hadn't figured out how she'd managed to come out to her mother. A part of her was still in denial about that. "Well, I guess this is a good spot for insomniacs."
Kris was silent for a while, and Julianne struggled to keep her gaze from falling on the artist's face.
"Do you miss all of this when you're in New York?" Kris asked, glancing over. "It's so peaceful compared to the City. Well, it's so peaceful in general, really."
"I do miss it," Julianne admitted. "But I'll be back here in a month or two."
"Oh," Kris said, with what Julianne thought was a hint of sadness. "I guess once you finish the movie you won't have a reason to stay in New York."
Julianne didn't know how to say that there was reason enough for her to stay. But that wasn't really the problem. "I have to come back and finish out the season of Guardian."
"Oh, right," Kris replied. "How much longer is the series running?"
"It could end this year," Julianne answered. "But they asked me to renew the contract for two more seasons."
"That should keep you pretty busy, then," Kris replied.
Yes, very busy indeed. More movies, more TV shows, more promotional tours, more interviews. What was even the point in telling Kris how she felt? Julianne didn't have time for a relationship. "I haven't signed the contract yet," she found herself revealing.
Kris glanced at her in surprise. "Are you debating whether or not to continue?"
Julianne didn't know how to answer that. The fact of the matter was that she'd had that contract in her possession for months. She'd discussed it with her lawyers. She had, in her mind, intended to spend the next two years in the role of Kiara. But she was hesitant. A very strong part of her didn't want to have that responsibility looming overhead. She wanted the option to do something else, or to do nothing at all. "Yes," she said finally. "Guess I am."
Kris nodded, but didn't ask for details. "I'll miss you when you leave," she said, smiling, if a bit sadly. "I've gotten used to having you around."
The words made Julianne's heart skip a beat. "I'm keeping the apartment," she said, though she hadn't fully decided on that until that moment. "I'll be back."
"Good," Kris said.
They felt silent for a long time, listening to the waves. Julianne was desperate to say something. But she wanted to come up with something that was more than a random waste of breath to fill the silence. She wanted to say something meaningful, something profound, something that would express, however minimally, the emotions coursing through her.
It bordered on painful, sitting there, inches away from the one person she longed for, and censor the only thoughts that really seemed to matter. Why was saying 'I love you' so difficult?
"Do you think it's weird?"
Julianne blinked, completely thrown by the question. "Do I think what's weird?"
"Us?" Julianne questioned.
Kris looked at her briefly before looking away. She pushed away the strands of hair blowing in her face and continued. "That we're friends."
"Is it weird to you?"
"Sometimes," Kris admitted. "When I remember who you are."
"And who am I?" Julianne wanted to know. She was suddenly intrigued by the turn in conversation.
"Julianne Franqui, TV and film star," Kris answered. "You know, when we were in the airport, I saw about three magazines with you on the cover. And two that just mentioned you. It felt very strange. Like I was caught in the middle of a very bizarre dream."
Julianne didn't know how to respond to that. What was Kris trying to say? "Does my fame bother you?"
Kris frowned and looked at the actress. "Bother me? It impresses me. I look around at all of this and I am so amazed." She shook her head. "It doesn't bother me, Julianne. But it makes me a little sad."
"Because," Kris began, "before I got to know you, all I had to go by was what I saw of you on TV. You were that two-dimensional figure that was easy to hate because you didn't seem real. And it saddens me that there are people out there that will want to bring you down. That will want to hurt you because even outside of your television or movie roles, you seem to them, still a character."
Julianne stayed silent, a lump in her throat. She didn't trust her voice to speak.
"I should tell you that I think you're wonderful," Kris continued. "And I think anyone in this world would be incredibly lucky to be with you."
Julianne stared into hazel eyes, made almost black by the darkness. She had to remind herself to breathe. She still couldn't speak. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. Not with such open sincerity. It made her heart ache. "Thanks," was her brilliant response.
"You're welcome," Kris replied.
This was her chance, Julianne realized. This was her opening. The moment to tell Kris everything, regardless of the consequences. Her heart was pounding so fast and hard that she could barely hear the waves above the noises in her chest. She wanted to think of the right words. She wanted to be clear that she didn't expect anything, and that nothing would change. She wanted, merely, to feel hope, if only for the brief second before Kris' reaction. It was that moment she was craving, the simple taste of something besides this bitter need.
"Julianne," Kris said suddenly. "What is it you're looking for? In someone else, I mean."
Had she let the moment pass, Julianne wondered, feeling both relieved and disappointed that it was Kris who had spoken. "In what sense?"
"Why did you stop seeing Naomi?" Kris asked softly.
Julianne frowned at the question, unsure of what to answer. The truth came easily to her mind, but she found it impossible to voice it. "I didn't have feelings for her."
"But why?" Kris said, turning to face Julianne. "What about her wasn't what you were looking for?"
Julianne felt like a coward. She was tired of dancing around the questions, tired of avoiding the truth. "She wasn't you," she said, and for a second wasn't sure she'd actually spoken the words.
Kris stared at her for a long moment, which felt, to Julianne, like an eternity. "She wasn't me?" she asked hesitantly, as if afraid that she'd heard incorrectly. Or maybe afraid that she had heard correctly. Julianne couldn't be sure.
"Yes," Julianne answered simply, tearing her gaze away from Kris' eyes. She didn't want to see what she'd find there. A part of her wanted to cry. She felt such an overwhelming combination of fear and relief at that moment that she didn't know what to do with the emotions. She risked a glance at Kris and found the artist staring at her. "Are you freaked out?" she asked, trying to keep her tone light, in spite of the fact that she was terrified.
"Just shocked," Kris answered. "And, I think... confused."
"What you're trying to say," Kris answered.
Julianne felt something inside her give up. "It doesn't matter," she said, looking away. "I should get some sleep."
Kris didn't answer right away. But finally, she said, "Okay."
Disappointed, Julianne stood up, and brushed away the sand from the back of her pants. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
Kris glanced up at her and nodded. "Of course."
"Good night, Kris," Julianne said.
Julianne almost hesitated, wanting to say something else. Maybe she hadn't been clear enough, maybe she should say more. But what was the point? She had been dumb to think that admitting her feelings would change anything.
Resigned, she waved to Kris and headed toward the house.
Kris watched Julianne until the actress disappeared inside. What had just happened? One second she was working up the nerve to tell Julianne how she felt, and the next she was completely frozen.
She wasn't you...
The words replayed in Kris' mind until she thought her heart would fly out of her chest. Julianne had feelings for her. Julianne had feelings for her and Kris had let her go to bed. "I'm such an idiot," she said, thinking back to how she had reacted. She would've kicked herself if she wasn't so overwhelmed.
She had to go find her.
Somehow, she stifled the urge to run as she started after Julianne. She had to think clearly. She had to plan some sort of monologue. An apology for her recent stupidity might not be out of place, either.
Oh God, Julianne has feelings for me.
The realization of what that meant nearly knocked her off balance. She thought she might explode from the sheer overload of feelings.
But she resumed her steps, entering the house, and heading toward the stairs to the second floor. She felt like she was walking in slow motion. She felt like she was caught in a wonderful dream that was soon about to end. She wanted this moment to last forever, because she was terrified of the one that would follow.
She hadn't planned for anything that wasn't rejection. The notion that Julianne might feel the same way had merely lingered in the background with all of the other hopes and dreams that she wouldn't let herself think about. So, how could she know what to do?
She paused in front of Julianne's bedroom door. She could see a beam of yellow light escaping through the crack at the bottom, and the knowledge that Julianne was at the other side of this wooden barrier filled Kris with a longing so profound it made her want to cry.
After swallowing several times, she willed her hand to knock. And then she waited, dreading each second that passed, knowing any second now she'd be faced with a decision.
The doorknob turned; the beam of light grew bigger and bigger, until it was eclipsed by Julianne's body standing in the doorway. Kris stared hesitantly into confused blue eyes, and felt all of her doubts and reservations slip away. "If I tell you I'm in love with you, will it freak you out?" she asked, thinking that moment surreal. She could feel her heart hammering in her chest. She wasn't certain she was breathing.
Julianne stared at her as if she couldn't decide if Kris was real or not. "What?" she asked finally.
Kris stepped closer as if guided by an invisible force that filled her with a courage she never knew she possessed. She glanced briefly at Julianne's lips, wanting nothing more than to feel them against her own. She looked back up at Julianne's eyes, and saw a flash of something unrecognizable. "I love you," Kris said softly, hoping it would get through this time, trying, desperately, to cling to the hope that Julianne still meant what she'd said on the beach.
"Kris..." Julianne said, her voice uncertain.
"You don't have to say it back," Kris said, quickly, afraid that she had said too much. "I just wanted you to know." She started to step back, but Julianne took her hand. Kris wasn't sure how she hadn't had a heart attack yet. She was certain that what her heart was doing at that moment wasn't healthy. Kris glanced down at their hands, unsure of what to make of the gesture, unsure that any of this was even really happening. Tentatively, she stared up into blue eyes, and waited.
Julianne was panicking. Her entire brain had frozen the second Kris had begun to speak. There were so many things she wanted to say; to ask, but she was rendered mute by the impact of the moment.
So many things were happening inside her mind at one time that she didn't know where to begin. She wanted to go back, to examine every memory for evidence that what Kris was telling her was true. Julianne wanted to sit down and break apart each seemingly inconsequential moment, to find the buried fragments of dismissed phrases, the tossed-out pieces of unimportant words. How much had been apparent? How much had she ignored?
"Please say something," Kris said.
Julianne snapped out of her thoughts, suddenly aware that she was holding Kris' hand; unsure of how that had happened. She stared down at their intertwined fingers, trying to buy time. She was uncertain of what to say; what to do; how to act. "You're ... you ..."
Kris offered her a half smile. "Do you have trouble without a script, Miss Franqui?" she teased.
Julianne didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She glanced down at their hands again, and then at Kris' face. 'I love you' just didn't seem like enough to convey what she was feeling. How could three words express all of the nights and days and hours, minutes, seconds, spent fantasizing over this moment, while feeling, all of the while, that it would never come?
There were no words, at all. There was only the silence filled with shortened intakes of breath. There were only the occasional muted sounds of something indistinct and undecipherable, barely audible above the intensity of the moment. There was only the act of opening a door to find everything she had ever wished, and hoped, and prayed for, standing in the doorway.
She caught Kris staring at her lips, then look away as if embarrassed. Julianne's heart raced, and skipped, and pounded; she felt her entire body both tremble and freeze. Time lost all meaning, all existence. Julianne became aware only of the fact that Kris' lips looked so beautiful, and soft, and incredibly inviting. And though they were only inches from her own, they seemed like miles away.
It was Kris' turn to catch her staring, and their gazes locked for a split second before fading behind closing eyelids. Julianne lost track of whether or not she was breathing, noticing only the heat of Kris' body pressing slowly against hers. She lowered her head and her lips brushed against softness so sweet, she almost pulled away from the onslaught of emotion.
She felt Kris' body stiffen, then relax into her, pulling her closer. Their lips met briefly, came apart for a split second, before meeting again. Julianne's entire body felt ready to explode with sensation. She thought she might melt, or become consumed by the simple pleasure of feeling Kris' mouth moving against her own.
Kris pressed into her, moaned against her lips, kissed her deeper, until Julianne thought she might pass out. Her entire body screamed and trembled and burned with a wonderful heat that spread through every fiber of her being. She let it wash over her like a tidal wave of immeasurable bliss, and surrendered completely to the moment, until finally, after what felt like a century spent in a blink of an eye, she pulled her lips away, and whispered, "I love you, too."
Kris had been awake when Julianne left the bed that morning. She had listened to every movement and every sound, until the door had opened, and quietly closed. She had listened to the receding footsteps down the stairs, until finally, she felt it safe enough to open her eyes.
She glanced around the strange bedroom, not yet used to the surroundings, and tried to pin down her emotions. As she gazed around, seeing but not registering, she wondered what had led to that moment. One second she had been spying from the shadows, too shy to approach the actress, and the next, she was knocking on Julianne's door, she was admitting things she'd never thought she'd say, she was swept up and away from rational thought.
If Kris had been thinking clearly, she would had paused at the bottom of the stairs, stared up at Julianne's bedroom door, and then continued on to the guestroom. She would have gone to bed, wondering about what Julianne had said. She would have invented, and reinvented a plethora of what-if scenarios that would have culminated with a kiss. But it would have been okay, because it wouldn't have been real. There are no consequences to idle fantasies.
Instead, she had lived out her thoughts. She had stepped up to the brink of possibility and jumped, head first without further thought. She had given herself up to the moment, to the tension and elation and excitement, pushing away the confusion and uncertainty and fear. And now what? Now that everything was out in the open, now that she knew exactly how Julianne's lips felt against her own, what was she going to do?
Everything had changed. She could feel it from the second she'd drifted back to consciousness. She had felt it in the second before they'd kissed, a shift, subtle, yet unquestionable. The entire framework of their friendship had been frantically altered by a simple declaration of love. There was no going back from that moment; no way to return to not-knowing.
Kris closed her eyes at the memory of Julianne's kiss. In that moment, she had lost every inhibition, every worry, every doubt. She had wanted to give everything of herself to Julianne, to rip open the fabric of her previously meaningless existence and pour its contents into Julianne's world. She had wanted to make Julianne see, to feel, the depth of her emotions. It had felt like dying and being reborn again, her entire body reeling from the shocks of pleasure coursing through her. It had been overwhelming, perfect, and terrifying; and she had wanted more.
And then everything changed.
They had stopped for half a second, a miniscule fraction of time, but long enough to bring reality crashing down around them.
What had happened? What had they just done?
Kris rolled over on the bed, and wiped her eyes, feeling completely overcome. It was one thing to admit she had feelings for Julianne, it was another to act upon those feelings. And now that she knew Julianne felt the same way, what did it mean? What would they do?
The sound of the doorbell interrupted Kris' thoughts, and her attention shifted to the sound of undecipherable voices. She could almost make out Julianne's, but couldn't hear what she was saying.
Kris wondered who else was downstairs. She was fairly certain she'd heard a male voice. And maybe another female's, she wasn't sure. She also wondered how long she could hide out in Julianne's bedroom before it became obvious that she was hiding.
After thinking it over for several minutes, she finally decided she really needed to get up. She blamed her bladder, and the fact that she couldn't avoid Julianne forever.
But maybe she'd wait a few more minutes.
"I brought you a copy of Red Like Me," Adrian announced, holding up the tape. "You can add it to your collection of movies you hate."
"It's really interesting," Karen commented. "Rachel loved it."
Julianne glanced over Adrian's shoulder toward the stairs. She was half anticipating, half-dreading Kris waking up. She knew they needed to talk, but it would have to wait until she returned from the premiere later that night. And she had no idea what she would say to Kris when she saw her.
Adrian turned around to see what Julianne was looking at. Seeing nothing, he turned back. "Um, Julianne. I'm over here." He waved the hand holding the tape.
Suddenly remembering she had company, Julianne's mind refocused on her guests. "I'm sorry?"
"Red Like Me," Adrian repeated, handing her the movie. "It's all yours."
Julianne stared at the tape in her hand, and then up at Adrian. "Thanks. But what the hell is Red Like Me?"
"My movie," he reminded her. "Apples? People?"
She stared at him blankly.
Adrian sighed. "The tomato movie."
Julianne finally remembered. She tried not to roll her eyes. She knew how important Adrian's insanity was to him. "Can't wait to see it." She turned to Karen. "So what am I doing today?"
"You're having lunch with Derek and his father, Steven, at noon. Then you've got an interview at two, which shouldn't take too long. There's a cast dinner at six. And the movie starts at eight. And then there's a party at the director's house."
Julianne sighed to herself. She was never getting home. "Okay."
"Isn't it great to be back in L.A.?" Adrian teased. "And Derek. Is that the guy you've decided to dump me for tonight?"
"He's like eight," Julianne informed him.
"That's sick, Jules. It's bad enough you're a lesbian. Now you're a pedophile, too?"
"Not funny," Julianne replied.
Adrian shrugged. "Can't win them all. So you're taking an eight-year-old to the movie? Isn't there like a big hot sex scene in there?"
Julianne shook her head. "No. I mean, we filmed it. You both remember that catastrophe. But the producers felt it would be best if the movie didn't stray too far from the show. So they cleaned it up."
"That sucks," Adrian said. "Will the DVD have the uncut scenes? Will there be an unrated version?"
Julianne ignored the question, and ventured a glance at the stairs again.
Adrian arched an eyebrow as he caught her staring over his shoulder again. "Julianne, what's going on with you?" Then comprehension dawned on him. "Ohhh, that's right. I forgot Kris came with you."
"Ooooooh! Where is she?" Karen asked, looking around.
Julianne wanted to kill them both. "Would you two shut up and try to act like mature adults?"
They glanced at each other. "Are we mature adults?" Adrian wondered.
"No, I don't believe we are," Karen answered. "So is that why you keep glancing at the stairs every two seconds?"
Adrian stared at her in surprise. "She's in your bedroom?"
"Please drop it."
"Does that mean there's something to drop?" Adrian asked.
Julianne started walking to the kitchen, and stopped in her tracks as she saw Kris enter the living room. Caught off-guard, it took Julianne a moment to react. "Good morning," she said, trying not to sound as awkward as she felt. She turned. "Kris, this is my assistant, Karen, and my occasional best friend, Adrian."
"Nice to meet you," Kris said. "I've heard a lot about you." She said it to both of them, but Julianne noted that her gaze never left Adrian.
Julianne glanced at Adrian, whose gaze was completely glued to Kris, and a surge of irrational jealousy took over. She instantly pushed it away. "Anyone hungry?"
"Starved," Kris answered, her gaze drifting back to Julianne. "But I should go take a shower."
"I'll make something while you do," Julianne told her.
Kris excused herself from her new acquaintances, her gaze lingering on Adrian far longer than necessary and disappeared down the hall toward the guestroom
Julianne gave Adrian a look that could bend metal.
"Whoa!" Adrian said, holding his hands up defensively. "I was just thinking she looks really familiar."
"You've seen her picture," Julianne reminded him, unsure of why she was overreacting.
Karen moved away from the line of fire and went to sit down on the couch.
Adrian approached Julianne. "I could've sworn I'd seen her before."
"I'm going to make breakfast," Julianne announced, unsure what to comment because she was unsure what she felt. "Want some?"
"No thanks," Adrian said, looking concerned.
"Karen, breakfast?" Julianne offered.
"Nope," Karen answered. "But, do you mind if I drool over your TV?"
"Go right ahead," Julianne answered. She went to walk away, but Adrian stopped her.
He was frowning. "What's going on?"
Julianne shook her head. "I have no idea," she said honestly. "I'm just really confused right now. And I think it's making me a little ... insane."
"This is new?" Adrian teased, trying to lighten the mood.
Julianne bit her lip, and glanced at the hallway where Kris had gone. "We kissed last night."
Adrian's eyes widened. "What?"
"She told me she's in love with me."
Adrian stared at her in disbelief. "Since when?"
"I don't know," Julianne answered. "We kissed, and it was just ... perfect. Only, then it got weird and awkward between us. And I asked her if she wanted to spend the night in my room, and she did. But we just went to sleep, or to pretend to sleep, and I ... I don't know what all of this means. I don't know what she wants, or if I can even give her what she wants. And now I have to get through today somehow, and I don't know how I'm going to manage that without going crazy."
"Yeah, it sounds like you definitely need to talk to her," Adrian agreed. "I'm bound to not be of great help at the moment. I'm still stuck on the kissing thing. I should really install cameras in this place."
Julianne stared at him. "You know, sometimes I wonder why I bother telling you anything at all."
"Behold the power of the thong," Adrian assured her. "No woman can resist it."
Julianne almost smiled at that, but then remembered her plight. "I don't know what to do."
"Isn't that always your problem?" Adrian asked. "And what do I always tell you?"
"Something about Playboy?" Julianne guessed.
"Ha," Adrian said dryly. "No, do what feels right."
Julianne sighed. "That's the problem, nothing feels completely right."
"One...two... three ... four," Karen counted. She hesitantly put her thimble down. "Damn."
"Ha!" Adrian said. "Two thousand dollars, please."
Kris looked at Karen and smiled. "That's what you get for giving him Park Place."
"It seemed like a smart move at the time," Karen grumbled, counting out her Monopoly money. She mortgaged a few properties, sold three houses, and after much mumbling under her breath, gave Adrian his two thousand dollars. "It's okay. I'll get my hotels back, and then he'll be sorry."
Kris laughed, and rolled the dice. She moved safely into one of her own properties. "Whew," she said, relieved. She looked at Adrian as he took his turn. All day she'd been trying to figure out where she'd seen him before, but to no avail. Maybe it had been on television with Julianne. "So, who's this guy that Julianne is going to the premiere with?"
Karen and Adrian exchanged a look.
"It's, um, Derek," Adrian replied.
Derek. Kris tried to remember if Julianne had ever mentioned a Derek to her, but she couldn't recall. "Is he an old friend?"
They started laughing, and Kris looked at them in confusion.
"He's an eight year old friend," Karen told her.
Kris was a little confused. "She's known him for eight years?"
Adrian grinned. "No, he's just eight."
"Eight," Karen confirmed, with a smile. "Derek's sister wrote Julianne a letter telling her that her little brother was sick. I'm not sure of the disease. Cancer, maybe. And Julianne wrote back to the parents offering to help with money for any treatment necessary, if it was needed. And that regardless, if Derek was feeling better at the time, that she would like him to be her date to the premiere of the movie. She sent four plane tickets along with the letter, so that the family could come along."
Kris smiled, falling in love with Julianne all over again. "That was really nice of her. Does Julianne do that kind of thing often?"
Karen shrugged and looked down at the game board, taking her turn. "Julianne never even read her mail before."
"And she only started cause I made a deal with her," Adrian supplied.
"What kind of deal?" Kris asked curiously.
"Oh I just had to call this girl," Adrian answered. He seemed to think of something and paused. "Um, but anyway, I told her I would as long as she read three letters a week."
Kris frowned. "Why didn't she read them on her own?"
"Some theorists believe it's because she didn't have time to be bothered," Adrian answered. He glanced pointedly at Karen. "But I think it's because it was just easier for her to pretend not to care. She's always had issues with people not seeing who she really is, and I think reading mail from her fans was a like opening a bunch of little mirrors. She'd have to directly face how other people saw her."
Kris pondered that for a moment, not sure it made sense to her. "Does she read it now?"
"I don't know, I have about two boxes for her to take back to New York, if she wants," Karen said with a smile. "Most of it goes through her official fan club, and they just send back a picture with one of those stamped autographs. Oh, and it's your turn."
"Sorry," Kris apologized, and rolled. She drove her little metallic car into Boardwalk, and groaned. "Well, I'm officially out."
"I win," Adrian announced, holding up his fortune. "Oh, yes! Now, where can I exchange this for real money?" He brightened. "You know, when we play with Julianne, we should tell her to give us real money if she loses."
Kris laughed, and started helping to clean up the pieces from the game on the coffee table.
"We should get going," Karen announced. "I have to get back to Rachel."
Kris glanced over at Karen. "Who's Rachel?"
"My girlfriend," Karen answered. "She's depressed about my going off to New York. And I keep telling her, it's only for another month, while Julianne finishes filming, but she's still moping about it."
"You're going to New York?" Kris asked, unable to decide which comment surprised her more.
Karen nodded. "Yeah, it's very hard to be a long-distance assistant. But I was finishing off a screenwriting course, and Julianne was nice enough not to complain about my prolonged absence."
Kris was curious where Karen would be staying, but didn't ask. She also didn't understand what Julianne needed an assistant for. Julianne seemed to get along fine on her own. But Kris didn't mention that either. "I see," she finally said.
Adrian took the lull in the conversation as a sign to stand up. "Well, it was very nice meeting you, Kris," he said.
Kris rose as well. "Thanks for staying around to entertain me."
"Our pleasure," Adrian replied. He stared at her for a moment. "Um, listen, at the risk of it coming off as a pick-up line, have we met before?"
Kris smiled. "I had actually been wondering that myself. You look so familiar."
"Hm," Adrian said pensively. "It'll come to me."
Julianne fastened the microphone to her shirt and waited for the cue. As soon as it came, she put on her interview face, and turned her full attention to the person facing her.
"And welcome back to our Guardian: A Second Chance special. I'm sitting here with the star of the film, Julianne Franqui. How are you doing, Julianne?"
"I'm well, thank you," she answered. "How are you doing, Phil?"
"Fantastic," he answered.
Julianne wondered if anyone who actually used the word "fantastic" to describe their state of being was ever really "fantastic." She waited for him to continue.
"So, have you seen the film yet?" Phil asked.
"No, I haven't actually, I'm heading to the premiere tonight. I'm very excited about seeing the finished product."
"You're currently not filming any new episodes of the TV show. What have you been doing to keep busy during the hiatus?"
"I'm filming a movie called Summer's End, which I believe is due to come out at the end of next year."
"Are you enjoying that project?"
"I'm loving it. It's going to be a wonderful film."
"Well, I'm sure your fans are anxious for its release," Phil replied. "I have here some questions sent via email from some of your viewers."
"Okay," Julianne replied.
Phil held up a note card and said, "Jane Harvey, from Minnesota, would like to know if you're 'still dating that hunk Adrian Cruz'?"
Julianne forced herself to laugh, but the truth of the matter was that she was annoyed by the question. Why did people care about her love life? She was also unsure of what to say. It was one thing to pop the bubble of illusion that her mother and sister carried, but quite another to go public with the news.
And Kris? It had been less than twenty-four hours since they'd kissed, and already things were complicated. It would be a lot easier to hide her relationship with Kris if people still thought she was with Adrian. But were they even in a relationship? She could feel a headache coming on. "No, we're no longer together," she finally answered, deciding that even if the truth was more complicated, it still felt better than a lie.
"Well, Jane, if you're watching this, the hunk is now available," Phil joked.
This time, Julianne did laugh.
Kris walked through Julianne's house, observing every piece of furniture, every object. She loved the knowledge that everything there was purely Julianne. Or was it? Had she hired a decorator? Maybe Julianne had told her, but she couldn't remember. And in the end, it didn't really matter.
She felt sad, being there, unsure of where she stood with Julianne, or if she stood at all. Love was supposed to conquer everything, they'd told her, but was that true? She had never seen any evidence of it. All she had ever witnessed was evidence to the contrary. So, what had really been the point of telling Julianne how she felt? What was the point of getting excited over the fact that Julianne felt the same way?
In a month or two, Julianne would head back to California. She would go on to make her shows and movies, and Kris would return to selling paintings on the streets; to spending all of her time and energy studying to become something she already was.
It was silly, these feelings she carried. It was silly and insane to think anything could come out of it. They could never make it work.
But, still, all of these thoughts of logic and reason did nothing to erase the way she'd felt the moment she'd heard Julianne say 'I love you'. They could not change the way she still felt at the thought of Julianne, however innocent the thought. She wanted more. She wanted everything. She wanted to walk around that same house and not feel awkward or invasive. She wanted to ask Julianne every question she had ever wanted to ask but had been too shy to. She wanted to touch Julianne without being afraid that her touch would be unwelcome. She wanted an ending to all of this painful uncertainty.
Kris sat down at the bottom step of the long staircase, wondering if Julianne had changed her mind; fearing that everything she had ever wanted had appeared and then vanished, all the while, trying desperately to convince herself that she didn't care.
After the cast dinner, Julianne diligently went to pick up her date from the hotel he was staying at. She was already in love with the little boy, and she'd only met him for an hour. Lunch with Derek and his Dad had been pleasant, if a little stranger than she was used to. She had been thanked profusely for her help with Derek's treatment, and she thanked whatever deity was in charge of fate that of all the letters Karen could have chosen at random, it had been Jennifer's that landed in the three-letter pile.
She also had Adrian and his stupid agreement to thank. But mostly, Kris... Kris was at the root of all of this goodness.
As she'd arrived at the restaurant for the scheduled meal, it had occurred to Julianne that Kris should have been there. She had been so busy trying to avoid the awkwardness that she had forgotten what was important. How could she tell Kris she loved her, and then abandon her the next morning?
Starting tonight, something would have to change. It had already begun, this unconscious metamorphosis that had started the moment she'd received Kris' first email. Julianne had changed, she could feel it; but she was still the same. And that worried her.
In the hotel lobby, she watched the elevator doors open, and Derek and his father emerge. She smiled at them both. "You're welcome to come along," she said to the older man. "If you don't feel comfortable leaving Derek in my care."
Steven smiled. "Derek won't let me," he said with a laugh. "You two have fun. Have him back before midnight."
"It'll be closer to ten or ten thirty," she promised. She'd already decided to skip the party at the director's house. All she wanted was to sit through these agonizing two hours of watching herself perform, and then return home, to Kris.
Julianne smiled at Derek and offered her hand. "Ready?"
The little boy nodded and took her hand.
Julianne grinned to herself, feeling happy and giddy, if still petrified about what awaited her at her house. She glanced down at the grinning boy whose life she'd helped save, and felt assured, beyond anything else in this world, that fate did exist.
Kris played with the sand, letting it slide through her fingers. It was soothing, though she was growing restless and impatient by the passing of time. She'd had almost an entire day to contemplate her entire spectrum of emotion, and the only thing she'd managed to figure out was the fact that she loved Julianne.
And that was hardly news.
"Fancy meeting you here."
Kris' heart skipped a beat, and she turned her head to see Julianne walking up to her. "Hi," she said, feeling shy all of a sudden. In her mind, she'd known exactly what she would say the moment Julianne got home. But now she couldn't remember a single word of the extensive monologue she'd mentally written.
Julianne sat down, and Kris noticed for the first time, that she was carrying a bowl. "Hi," Julianne said back.
"What are you eating?"
"An experiment," Julianne declared, grabbing the spoon. She pointed at the contents in the bowl. "It's Cap'n Crunch Berries, Honey Nut Cheerios, and Kashi Go Lean."
Kris scrunched her face in disgust. "Are you insane?"
"Want the first bite?" Julianne offered.
Kris shook her head, though now she was morbidly curious. "Are you really planning to eat that?"
"Why not?" Julianne asked. "I figure, if they taste good separately, they should taste good together."
Kris smiled. "I'm sorry to say your logic isn't very well thought-out. What about pizza with ice cream."
Julianne looked thoughtful. "You know, that doesn't sound half bad."
"Are you pregnant?" Kris demanded.
"I don't know, I guess it depends on how skilled you are at kissing," Julianne replied with a wink.
Kris wanted to smile, but the comment reminded her of everything they hadn't yet talked about. "How was your day?"
Julianne stared down at her bowl of assorted cereal. "It was okay," she said, playing with the cereal and the milk. She lifted a spoonful. "Do you think this will taste good?"
"Not even a little bit," Kris replied, and couldn't help but smile.
Julianne put the cereal in her mouth, and crunched thoughtfully. "Mmmm," she said, once she'd swallowed. "Not bad."
Kris was skeptic. "There's no way that tastes good."
"Delicious," Julianne said in between bites. "I should mix things together more often."
"And what led you to this new culinary discovery?" Kris wondered.
Julianne smiled. "Well, I realized I had no cereal this morning. So I stopped to get some on the way back home. And I couldn't decide between your personal favorites and mine. So I took one of each. And then I couldn't decide which one to eat. So I thought I'd try them all at the same time." She smiled. "Is that weird?"
"Very," Kris confirmed. But it was cute, too. She glanced away, knowing they had to talk about what had happened. "What are we doing?" she asked.
Julianne glanced at her. "Sitting at the beach."
Kris didn't crack a smile, or look at Julianne.
Julianne took that as a hint to be serious. "I think we're acting like idiots. But me, more than you, cause I should've known better than to panic."
"Panic?" Kris asked.
Julianne put the bowl of cereal aside and turned to face Kris. "Do you have any idea how long I've been in love with you?"
Kris froze at the words.
"Forever," Julianne said. "Since before we met in New York. Since before I bought that second painting from you. All of that time I'd been so convinced that nothing could ever happen between us that I never let myself wonder what would happen if something could. And last night something happened. And I panicked because I didn't know what it meant for me to be in love with you."
Kris thought about what Julianne had said for a moment. There were too many things to react to and it was hard to decide which one to focus on. But she decided to go with the one that really mattered. Anything else, she could sort through later, alone. "So, do you know now what it means for you to be in love with me?" The words sounded surreal to her. She still didn't quite understand how she'd come to a point where she could be saying these things to another person, to Julianne Franqui, of all people.
"I know what I feel," Julianne said. "But I don't know what you feel, or what you want."
Kris stared at her. "What do you want?"
"I want you," Julianne said.
Kris wanted to cry, both from happiness and fear, but she managed not to. There were still too many things left to talk about. "I haven't really come to terms with what it is I want. I mean, I know how I feel about you. But, what does it mean in terms of us? You're still Julianne Franqui. You're still famous and always in the public eye. We'd have to hide everything. I don't even know what to tell my parents. And your career... what if people find out? It'll be all over the news. Everyone will find out. Are you willing to risk that?"
"Are you?" Julianne asked softly.
"I don't have as much to lose as you, Julianne," Kris stated. She sighed. "But, the thought of my parents finding out. Knowing how they reacted to William..."
Julianne nodded, but fell silent.
"I don't want to make a mistake," Kris continued, feeling her heart break. Where was she going with this? Did she really want to break up with Julianne before there was even anything to break?
Julianne didn't respond right away. Finally, she asked, "Do you regret what happened last night?"
"No," Kris said quickly. "Do you?"
"I could never regret anything with you," Julianne answered.
Kris didn't know what to make of that comment. "What do you want to do?"
"I want to be with you," Julianne answered honestly. "But, not at the risk of making your life more complicated."
"What about your life?"
Julianne smiled. "My life is already complicated. You're more important than my petty fears."
Kris felt sad. If Julianne weren't famous this probably wouldn't be as complicated. "It's still your life, Julianne. It's going to be you whose life will be under a microscope constantly."
"They'd drag you down too."
"I have nowhere to get dragged down from," Kris said.
Julianne sighed. "So, what are you saying?"
Kris hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. "I'm saying that in spite of the fact that I'm completely terrified about what it would mean to both our futures, it doesn't change the fact that I'm totally in love with you."
Julianne stared at her. "I told my mom last night that I was in love with you."
"What?" Kris asked, shocked beyond belief. "When?"
"When you were waiting outside," Julianne answered. "I actually said the word 'dyke' to my mother."
Kris laughed, still not over the shock of Julianne's announcement. "What did she say?"
"Nothing, yet," Julianne answered. "I just dropped the bomb on her and left. I haven't heard from her, so she may still be standing there with her mouth hanging open."
"Wow," Kris said. She couldn't imagine coming out to her mother. But, thinking about what loving Julianne meant about her sexuality was a different matter entirely. One she wasn't completely ready to deal with. Somehow, love just seemed a lot easier to handle when one didn't think about all the little details that accompanied it.
"I'm really tired of living a lie," Julianne explained. "I'm tired of pretending every day of my life. I just want to be."
Kris smiled. "It sounds good in theory."
"I know," Julianne admitted. "But I'm willing to try."
Kris nodded, wondering how much trying that would take. "Do you think love is enough to make things work out?"
"Do you want to find out?"
There it was, the question she had been asking herself all day. Did she want to find out? Yes. But she was also afraid to. So it really just came down to figuring out what was more important: fear or love? She looked at Julianne, who was staring at her expectantly, maybe hopefully. "Yes," she said.
Julianne smiled. "Do you think we're insane?"
"Certifiably," Kris conceded, with a grin, feeling excited all over again. She was going to be dating Julianne Franqui. What in the world was she getting herself into? And why did it not seem to matter in the slightest bit?
Julianne stared at the ocean for a moment. "So, do you want to go watch a movie or something?"
Kris started laughing. "So is that it?"
"Were you expecting fireworks or something?" Julianne asked with a grin. "I could spend another hour professing my undying love for you, if you'd rather."
Kris considered. "Don't I get some kind of prize for being the one who finally won you over?"
"Um," Julianne pretended to think about it. "I'll share my creation with you." She held up the bowl of now soggy cereal.
Kris took it, and stared down at the big mess of gooey-ness. "Gross."
Julianne grinned. "You're beautiful even when you look totally disgusted."
Kris' heart skipped a beat. She wasn't yet used to hearing Julianne say things like that. "It's going to take a while to get used to this, isn't it?"
"Well, you don't have to eat it if you don't want to," Julianne teased. "It looks a little mushy."
"I meant us," Kris said with a smile.
"Probably," Julianne said.
Kris caught Julianne's gaze, and decided she wanted something besides cereal. "Can I trade this in for something else?" she asked, holding up the bowl.
"I don't know," Julianne said. "It took a lot for me to give you that." She tapped her chin thoughtfully. "Alright, but just this once." She took the bowl back, and held it protectively. "What would you like instead."
"I don't know, something else," Kris said, moving closer.
Julianne looked around. "Sand?"
"Um, nope," Kris said, her face inches from Julianne's.
Julianne glanced at her lips, then up at her face. "It's very distracting when you do that."
"Good," Kris said, with a grin.
"I'll give you some ocean water," Julianne whispered. "But that's my final offer."
"Guess I'll just have to take it then," Kris answered, brushing her lips lightly against Julianne's. "Unless you want to change your final offer?"
"You drive a very hard bargain, Miss Milano."
"Better get used to it."
And then, for the time being, all conversation ceased.
THE END .... for now
return to the Academy